Christopher DiCarlo is not your typical 17-year-old.
Instead of spending his summer sleeping in, enjoying vacations with his family and just chilling with his friends, Christopher traded those lazy days for 10 weeks of 5 a.m. formations and physical training during basic combat training with the U.S. Army, serving alongside active duty and reserve soldiers.
This past February, while enrolled at Lafayette High as a junior and just a week after his 17th birthday, Christopher enlisted with the Missouri National Guard.
Inspired by his paternal grandfather and great-grandfather’s enlistment in the U.S. Navy, and maternal great-grandfather’s enlistment in the Army, Christopher’s interest in serving was nurtured by his involvement with Lafayette’s Junior Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps [JROTC].
He joined JROTC in 2014 as a freshman and once he was of age, he selected the split-training recruitment option, which allowed him to join the Guard while still enrolled in high school. But that’s not all, Christopher also has been involved with the Explorer program through the St. Louis County Police Department-7th Precinct since June 2014.
All those paths are leading him straight into his future – one he hopes will include a 20-year career with the U.S. Army while working in the law enforcement field for St. Louis County. Among the possibilities he is exploring are the F.B.I. and the U.S. Marshals since he has already received secret level military clearance.
Christopher credits his Lafayette JROTC training by Master Sgt. Dave Cugier and Lt. Col. James Smith with providing the support and mentorship to be prepared physically and mentally for basic training.
“I liked the military values of the group and [that] piqued my interest into joining the Army,” he explained. “The training I have received through JROTC more than prepared me physically and mentally for basic training.”
Because of his JROTC training, Christopher skipped two ranks and arrived at basic combat training on May 31 as an E3 or Private First Class soldier. Upon high school graduation next May, he will return to Ft. Leonard Wood to complete the Advance Individual Training in his chosen military occupation, Military Police. In the meantime, Christopher will continue to report to the Armory in Festus to fulfill his monthly training obligation, as well as continue in the Explorer program, where he is lieutenant [second in command] under Officer Dusty Poncin.
Even though Christopher is ahead of peers as he moves toward post-high school military and police experience, he is still college-bound. He will pursue an officer-producing ROTC program and is considering Missouri and Maryville universities with tuition paid for through his U.S. Army service. Another possibility is applying to West Point Military Academy, which reserves approximately 85 positions annually for guardsmen. The requisite recommendation to the Academy can come through the unit commander rather than the usual Missouri State Senator.
“The Missouri National Guard offers a host of benefits such as service to Missouri and the U.S., training that is applicable to civilian careers, health insurance, tuition and salary to name a few,” explained Christopher’s dad, Mike. Christopher received full active pay during basic training and regular monthly stipends for his drill weekends.
“I think if more young people knew the benefits of JROTC and the split-training option for enlisting in the military as a high school student, they would understand how it can really propel their future,” Mike shared.
“SFC Zach Mayberry, my Army recruiter, answered all my questions and didn’t pressure me. He told it like it is and guided me through the process,” Christopher added. “I felt a calling to serve, especially with all the turmoil in the news regarding anti-police and military. Who’s going to do it? I want to help with humanitarian efforts during natural disasters and civil unrest if and when Gov. Eric Greitens calls up my unit.”
Being under 18 prevents Christopher from helping out with Hurricane Harvey, but this is exactly what fuels and propels him to seek out this distinguished future.
“We are incredibly proud. [We] don’t know too many young people with that kind of commitment and maturity with a sense of duty and honor,” Mike shared. “We trust the National Guard to give him the best experience and best training possible for his future, which may include deployment after college. We are indebted to the men [Cugier, Smith, Mayberry and Poncin] who have played such a key role in this preparation.”