They say military training is about preparing, drilling, preparing and drilling some more.
Whitewater High School graduate Robert Fetters can testify to that. A senior cadet at West Point, Fetters was assigned temporarily to the Pentagon earlier this summer when he instinctively used his training to save a woman’s life.
Fetters and some friends were at the Metro station in Washington, D.C., having celebrated the last day of their internship with a night on the town, when he heard a scream. A woman had fallen onto the train tracks and her legs had been severed by the train.
Fetters and a fellow West Point cadet pulled the woman to safety and applied tourniquets that would ultimately save her life.
Fetters shares the story not to seek credit for himself but says it speaks well for the training the military has provided him thus far.
“It was definitely formative for me,” Fetters said. “… I don’t in any way think this qualifies me to be a commander or leader, but it built my confidence in the abilities that I’ve been able to develop.”
The gory scene had another profound effect on Fetters, who admitted it “shook me up a bit.” That’s where another facet of West Point helped him out.
“Every professor has been through combat, and has seen things that are very disturbing like I saw,” Fetters said. “As a soldier you think you can see something gruesome and awful and push it to the side and not think about it, but it did affect me. … There were a couple of officers who helped me out a ton because they knew what I was going through. Almost every officer has seen something awful because of their time in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Fetters described a visit a few months ago to the D.C. Metro system, which sent memories of the incident flooding back.
“I couldn’t stay in the metro, it just freaked me out,” Fetters said. “… It’s just a weird feeling like all of a sudden you’re back in that situation and you get nervous. You look around more. I’m sure it will die in time.”
Fetters does look back on the fact that not only was he in the right place at the right time, but he was also well-trained to handle the situation.
With a stepfather who was an Army Ranger, Fetters has always looked at the military as an honorable profession, which is what drew him to seek a military career.
At West Point, Fetters already had a wealth of international experience with trips to remote places not on the itineraries of most sightseers. Places like Kazakhstan for a military exchange program. In Nepal working for a humanitarian aid shelter for women, teaching English to orphans. Traveling through Chechnya, giving him a chance to “grow a beard … and look really goofy.”
This summer he shadowed a second lieutenant in an infantry Stryker division which gave him a chance to “drive tanks around and have a lot of fun.”
Thanks to a Rotary Club scholarship, Fetters will attend Kings College in London next year to study peace and security before going into the Army as a 2nd lieutenant himself.
Fetters is hoping he will be able to use his education later on diplomatic missions or perhaps follow a dream to join the elite Special Forces unit someday.
A 2010 graduate of Whitewater High School, Fetters sees his future as being rife with possibilities. He’s already had a big time at West Point, first playing on the rugby team and then making the cut for the skydiving team which makes jumps every day.
“The actual skydiving part is life-changing, it’s unbelievable,” Fetters said. “It gives you an ability, I almost feel like I can slow down time when things are going wrong. Because when you’re skydiving, you have to slow down time, you have to think quicker to react to a situation when you only have a couple of seconds or you die, because everything happens so fast.”
Like most anybody so young and practically invincible, Fetters sees the rest of his life as a story yet to be written, and one that he hopes will lead to great stories to tell in the future.
“It’s hard to see what I’m going to be doing 10 years from now,” Fetters said. “I can definitely see spending a good amount of time in the military. My passion is both travel and politics. Any career path that will allow me to travel from country to country, whether through the Army or other facets of government. I don’t care as long as I’m doing something fun. That’s all I really care about.”