Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Whitewater graduate a hero and inspiration

2014-05-08

By Pat Cooper

Warriors are a special breed. It’s not just their training or education. It comes from the heart. Some men are just born to the calling. You could say Robert Fetters was trained for it and now, on the cusp of graduating from West Point and accepting a Rotary Club scholarship to attend Kings College in London, he’s taking those first steps to what he’s sure is bright future of service to his country.
The 2010 Whitewater High School graduate said he had seen the military way of life as a vocation from a young age, since his stepfather was an Army Ranger.
“He was my big inspiration. He was attached to the Corps of Engineers in Grenada and Panama.”
Fetters said that and the memory of 9/11 had moved him to become involved in the military, though he wasn’t sure what he would do. He participated in the Young Marines and the Civil Air Patrol while growing up in Fayette County.
“I thought West Point because that was the place to be to become an officer. I know my stepfather always regretted not being able to go to West Point.
“I guess West Point has a way of reminding you who you need to be and what they expect from you. It’s a daily reminder. West Point is West Point, yes it’s a school, but you see the bigger picture. They are professors, but they are also military men. You know you might see action, deployment. It’s a wake up call, providing amazing opportunities on a daily basis.”
He was elected as Vice President of the Class of 2014- one of the elected leadership positions at West Point- out of some 1400 cadets, moving on to take over the President’s position in his junior year.
He also had an opportunity to play rugby and was able to join the skydiving team.
Unlike many West Point attendees Fetters already has a resume of travel to a number of international spots not usually included in a teenager’s vacation plans, including Nepal (where he worked with the HUNT Alternative, a women’s rights group based in most third world countries, working on assisting in areas like human trafficking, education and equal opportunity), Kazakhstan (to train at their military academy), Russia (where he studied the language in Kiev for four months), Prague (where he represented the Army and West Point at the 2014 Russia-NATO summit in March) and Chechnya.
He has also participated in the Student Conference of U.S. Affairs. He was the first freshman delegate in its history and participated with the Southeast Asia table, then moved on to the historian position and finally to table leader for the Russia table. This year, he’ll be participating as part of the India table.
Fetters is also one of eight students to be selected to be in charge of 180 classmates and new cadets during their basic training experience.
He has served as the PAO and outreach officer on the USMA Sports Parachute Team, as well as jumpmaster. With over 300 skydives, he’s tasked with coaching new members if the team, as well as being responsible for their safety during training. It’s a duty he takes very seriously.
“If anything happens to anyone during the jump, I’m responsible. It’s an awesome job to have and know I’m capable enough to handle it.”
It’s also a mind set that has carried through into other facets of his life.
On July 3, 2013, his clear thinking and fast reflexes were put to the test.
“It’s hard for me to talk about it. It just shook me. I was down in the D.C. subway when I heard a woman scream someone had jumped. It was the last day of my Pentagon internship. I couldn’t see her but I started running and jumped down onto the tracks. When I saw her, I just saw her head. I didn’t know if she was alive or dead so I crawled down to her.”
When he touched her pulse and realized she was still alive he patted her face and she woke up. Surrounded by people and the friends he was traveling with, he sent one of them to get the electric turned off.
“I knew about the third rail and there’s also wiring on the underside of the train car. It was a tight fit and I was worried about my head touching stuff.”
About that time, another man jumped down to help him.
“I knew he was military, you could tell.”
The two hooked the woman under the arms and dragged her a good distance away from the train car, trying to evaluate her condition.
“We could see something wrong under the train, but it was too dark to tell both her legs had been cut off and were sort of hanging by the skin. It was definitely a life-threatening injury.”
When a police officer arrived, he told Fetters to get out of the way.
“But I knew he couldn’t handle it alone. We have training like this, in the Army. He saw I was okay and then with two more airborne soldiers asking to help, he got a bit excited. We used my belt for a tourniquet. Then I got one from someone else and we used that too.”
During this time the electricity was still running and the EMTs were finally able to get it off and down onto the tracks.
And the woman survived.
“It’s the cool thing about skydiving .It tought me to slow down time. Things happen so fast in the skydiving environment and your training is so important. It just supercedes everything. The same thing happened here. I didn’t think. It’s not something you think about. I just did it.”
As a result of his quick thinking and heroism, he was nominated for the Soldier’s Medal.
“I didnt’ tell anyone except my friend, in my room. That’s how word spread, I guess.”
With his Rotary Club scholarship in hand, Fetters is graduating West Point in May- a ceremony that will not only be attended by his family, but his middle school teacher Mrs. Bunnell and President  Obama- and will be attending Kings College in London, studying peace and security before officially entering the services as a 2nd lieutenant.
“I just want to be the best infantry officer I can be and take all those opportunities. I like to keep life exciting. The Army, skydiving, travel..it’s all part of it. The Army lifestyle will let me do something with my life. It’s an education that can be practically applied almost daily. That’s what I wanted. I don’t want a desk job. I’m a huge international relations and politics guy and I can actively apply what I’ve learned.”

 

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