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A Balancing Act
March 17, 2011
GW sophomore juggles varsity softball team and NROTC.
By Jennifer Eder
Getting up before dawn is a regular occurrence for GW sophomore Julie Orlandi.
As a member of GW’s softball team and the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, Ms. Orlandi has to report to 6 a.m. workouts three times a week. She has to run up and down the "The Exorcist Stairs" in Georgetown -- a 75-step staircase -- six times, do hundreds of pushups and situps and bench press 85 pounds.
Her busy schedule doesn't end there.
She takes 13 credit hours toward her math major and an additional three credit hours of naval science classes each semester. She has softball practice or a game almost every day from February to May. And she’s required to keep a 2.5 GPA or risks losing her full NROTC scholarship.
“It was really tough adjusting to my schedule that first semester, I always felt like I was frantically trying to finish everything, but now I’m a lot more calm and I’ve gotten the routine down,” says Ms. Orlandi, a sophomore in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. “I try to get most of my school work done during the day because by the end of the day I’m exhausted.”
Growing up in Calvert County, Md., Ms. Orlandi spent most of her time outside of school playing softball.
“I’ve been playing my whole life,” says Ms. Orlandi, whose two sisters both play college softball at Shepherd University in West Virginia and whose father coached their teams growing up. “It’s kind of a family thing.”
Although her father did the NROTC during college, it wasn’t until Ms. Orlandi’s pediatrician told her she had excellent eyesight and asked her if she had considered being a pilot that she started considering becoming a naval aviator.
“I learned all I could about it and became really interested. I knew that I didn’t want to have a desk job. I like being active. And I wanted to do something that I feel is really meaningful to our country and the world so I decided I wanted to be in the Navy,” she says.
The NROTC program trains college men and women to become commissioned officers of the Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. Students can apply for two- or four-year scholarships. In addition to participating in physical training and attending weekly meetings, midshipmen, or NROTC members, are required to take eight naval science courses, including maritime navigation, the evolution of warfare and naval ships systems engineering, in addition to their other academic classes.
GW’s NROTC unit first opened in 1984, and today the battalion has 150 members. In addition to GW students, the unit accepts students from Georgetown University, the University of Maryland, Catholic University and Howard University. Soon after graduating, the students are commissioned as ensigns in the Navy or second lieutenants in the Marine Corps. Depending on what field the students go into, they are required to serve a certain amount of time in order to pay back their scholarship.
Before starting classes at GW, all new NROTC midshipmen are required to attend a mini boot camp at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va. Ms. Orlandi said it was during that week that she transformed from a civilian to a member of the military.
“It was a little scary at first because they make it as hard as they can. There’s a lot of yelling, a lot of running, a lot of marching and drilling,” she says. “It’s really tough and intense, but it’s a really neat experience. You come out of it being a lot more responsible and accountable for yourself.”
Lt. R.J. Nelis, the freshman adviser for GW’s NROTC unit, says Ms. Orlandi has become a role model for the unit.
“She’s always on time and always meets her requirements both academically and within the NROTC unit,” he says.
Ms. Orlandi, who tried out for GW’s softball team in the fall of her freshman year and joined the team as a walk-on, credits that responsibility for helping her succeed on the softball field.
Stacey Schramm, the team’s head coach, says Ms. Orlandi, who plays second base, brings a teamwork mentality to the field.
“She is dependable and reliable, both on and off the field. Her biggest strength is that she comes to practice each day with the mentality of earning a starting position, which pushes everyone else to do the same. And if she hasn’t earned it for the next game, she takes advantage of every other opportunity, whether it’s pinch running or pinch hitting,” says Coach Schramm. “She does it with 100 percent effort.”
Last year before Coach Schramm came onboard, the softball team had a difficult season, ending with a 6-39 record. Ms. Orlandi says going through such a challenging and disappointing season brought her so much closer to her teammates.
“I love my teammates so much,” she says. “They are probably going to be my best friends for a long time.”
So far this season is proving to be different from last year. As of today, the team’s record is 7-8.
“We have a whole new coaching staff and a new mood and atmosphere,” Ms. Orlandi says. “We finally believe in ourselves.”
After softball season is over, Ms. Orlandi will head out for a three-week summer cruise on a ship or submarine where she’ll shadow an enlisted person. Next summer, she’ll go on a similar cruise but will shadow a junior officer.
Last summer, she attended CORTRAMID – a four-week career orientation and training program for midshipmen –that includes a sub, surface, aviation and marine week. The purpose of the program is to give new midshipmen an opportunity to examine the four possible service selection options available to newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers.
During the aviation week, Ms. Orlandi got the chance to ride in and temporarily fly a trainer jet.
“It was so much fun,” says Ms. Orlandi, who hopes to attend flight school after graduating from GW. “No rollercoaster will ever compare to that.”
Although softball and NROTC keep Ms. Orlandi on a very tight schedule, she says there’s a benefit to doing the two simultaneously.
“The NROTC physical training makes me faster in softball, and lifting makes me stronger for the physical training. Hopefully, they’ve benefitted each other,” says Ms. Orlandi, who at 90 pushups, holds the record for the most number of pushups by any GW female athlete.
Coach Schramm says Ms. Orlandi’s participation in NROTC has taught her how to deal with adversity.
“When things are tough, one would never know she is stressed or upset. She’s able to keep that game face, which is crucial when playing the game. We never want our opponent to have advantage by us showing emotion,” Coach Schramm says. “Julie is the best at it.”
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