Norcross swimmer Rick Krause didn’t really have any plans for last summer.
So he fulfilled a lifelong dream by joining the U.S. Army Reserves before the start of his senior year in high school.
“While most of my friends were playing XBox and sleeping until noon, I was waking up at 4 a.m. for boot camp,” Krause said with a laugh.
Krause is one of the favorites in diving at the Gwinnett County Swim Meet, which begins today. He holds the Norcross record for the 6 Dive and hopes to set a new mark in the 11 Dive before season’s end.
However, it’s Krause’s early entry into military that is the popular topic of conversation around the pool area. He joined under the Army's "Split-Training Option," which permits high school students to participate in basic training during the summer before their junior year and complete advanced individual training after they graduate from high school. You have to be 17 years old or older and be granted parental permission, among other requirements.
“People will ask me ‘So what did you do over the summer?’” he said. “I’ll say ‘I shot some M-16s, fired a grenade launcher, threw some grenades and ran some different obstacle courses ... you know, things like that.’”
It’s an impressive story to hear. “I think Rick made a wonderful decision; you can tell the difference it has made with his leadership on our team,” said Norcross assistant coach Cori Hamm, whose military husband serves in Afghanistan.
While growing up, Krause said he often considered military life. His career plans accelerated last spring when his older sister talked with the Army recruiter in the Duluth office, David Delos Santos. Things didn’t work out for her because of minor health issues, but she recommended her brother.
Rick was 17 at the time and needed his parents' blessing to enlist. He signed up for eight years.
“[Delos Santos] came to my house and met with my family for two hours,” Krause said. “It seemed like an overnight decision, but it wasn’t. I had been thinking about joining for a long time. I was aware of the advantages and disadvantages. Once I explained everything to my parents, they were supportive.”
Why join? Krause needed financial assistance for college, and he wanted job training where he could travel the world. The terrorist attacks of “9-11” also had a lasting impression.
“I want to be able to support or fight for the people that died from that terrorist attack,” Krause said. “It’s like ‘9-11’ left a black spot in the back of my mind. I want to defend the people and the country that I believe in.”
Krause reported for nine weeks of basic combat training at Fort Jackson near Columbia last July. He expected to be the youngest soldier there, but discovered there were nearly 20 others around the same age. He reached Private E-2 status as a chemical-operations specialist -- decontaminating both people and materials.
“Boot camp was a love-hate experience,” Krause said. “It wasn’t that great having someone yell at me for nine weeks straight, but we got to do a lot of fun things, too. I got into the best shape of my life. I mean, I loved the training, and I got paid to learn how to shoot guns.”
The 6-foot-2, 150-pound Krause is the most accomplished diver in school history, finishing No. 11 at the state meet last year. His signature dives are a forward maneuver with 2.5 rotations before hitting the water and another type of leap that adds a body twist to 1.5 rotations.
After Krause graduates from Norcross in May, he will report to Fort Leonard, Missouri, for 12 weeks of advanced training. He will start college classes in the fall, with Georgia Southern and North Georgia as his top choices. He will continue to train with his unit one weekend per month, along with two full weeks each year.
He knows he could be sent to a war zone in the future.
“If it happens, and it probably will, I’m sure it will be hard to deal with at first,” Krause said. “I will be in a new place, and I won’t know anyone. But I will be ready, and I know I’ll have friends and family members writing me letters to help me get through it.
“I will be ready to serve.”
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