For two childhood friends and current Miami University students, schoolwork is only half the battle.
Carrying a backpack means a 40-pound rucksack full of gear. Living with multiple roommates means 50 guys in barracks. Getting a good night’s sleep means curling up in bed rather than the bushes. And getting up early means 5 a.m., a far cry from the dreaded 8 a.m. classes many college students fervently avoid.
Senior Tim Wolfe, a operations management major, and Raav Rehman, a junior computer engineering major, live double lives.
They are students during the week and soldiers on the weekend.
Through thick and thin
While Wolfe and Rehman have been soldiers for six years, they have been friends for much longer.
Wolfe and Rehman, both 25, met in the sixth grade as students at Kings Mill Junior High School in Mason, Ohio. Although Wolfe moved the following year, they kept their friendship intact. Despite attending different high schools, Wolfe and Rehman introduced each other to mutual friends, eventually forming a close group.
In September 2001, Wolfe and Rehman were high school seniors. After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Wolfe and Rehman said they both faced life-altering decisions.
Wolfe joined the Army National Guard Oct. 1, less than a month after the attack.
“I knew after 9/11 there was a large possibility of going to war,” Wolfe said. “But that didn’t dissuade my decision. September 11 inspired me to do something patriotic. I wanted to serve my country.”
Like Wolfe, Rehman was also inspired to join the National Guard nine months later.
A graduate of Little Miami High School, Rehman said his life lacked the sense of direction joining the military could provide.
“Knowing someone taking the military route made that a favorable option for me,” Rehman said. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after high school, and the combination of September and hearing Tim talk about his experiences at basic training helped guide me to my decision to join the military.”
The two men also decided to enroll at Miami’s Middletown campus while awaiting their first military deployment.
Wolfe and Rehman said they completed one semester of classes before beginning a one-year deployment to Kosovo.
In Kosovo, the two were separated into different living quarters and were sent on different missions.
According to Rehman, however, the comfort of knowing Wolfe was near helped make the experience a little easier.
“Having Tim overseas with me made things easy,” Rehman said. “Because no matter what was going on day-to-day, there was always someone to talk to-someone that’s been a part of my life for a long time. With one of my best friends there, it didn’t feel like it was a different country. It didn’t feel like I was so far away from home.”
Upon their homecoming in 2003, Wolfe and Rehman returned to life in the classroom. This time, however, the two chose to study at the Oxford campus.
Wolfe and Rehman were also deployed in 2005 for Hurricane Katrina relief, yet now more than five years since their first deployment, the childhood friends and roommates are finishing up their time at Miami.
Not unlike other Miami students, Wolfe and Rehman take classes, study for exams, write papers and head out to the bars with friends. Yet once a month, the comfortable and convenient life of a college student is replaced with gear and high-powered weapons for drill practice.
Besides having to be awake, alert and in formation at 5 a.m., Wolfe and Rehman said fulfilling their duties as soldiers and as students is difficult.
“It’s like having two full-time jobs,” Rehman said. “Sometimes you’re required to do something for class, and the military overlaps, and they take away from each other. A lot of the professors try to work with you, but it’s still difficult.”
In addition to keeping up with schoolwork and grades, Wolfe and Rehman said they have had to make sacrifices in order to carry out their commitment to the military.
For Wolfe, the sacrifice has made his college experience unique.
“I definitely feel like I’ve missed out on things in college,” Wolfe said. “I missed out on dorm life and the option of joining a fraternity. And above all, it’s prolonged my college career.”
Although Wolfe is a senior, his college career will be further extended due to announcement of his upcoming third deployment. In May, Wolfe will be sent to Iraq for one year-this time without Rehman by his side.
Unlike Wolfe, Rehman’s military contract expired a few months before the announcement of Wolfe’s Iraq deployment.
Wolfe said he will miss the companionship and camaraderie of Rehman this tour, but he said he is prepared to make the transition from student to soldier once again.
“This upcoming deployment to Iraq is inconvenient timing because I can’t finish up my education prior to leaving or continue my goals here at home,” Wolfe said. “But it is what it is. I took an oath to my country, and I know it’s time to put my books down and fulfill my duties as a soldier.”
Country over credits
For Wolfe, his commitment to the military is his top priority, regardless of the individual compromises that must be made.
Rehman said he knows the lesson of making compromises well, having learned lessons in the military he couldn’t have learned anywhere else.
“The military may have a negative influence on academics, but it has a positive influence on you as a person,” Rehman said. “I think it’s made me a better person, and I think the things I’ve learned in my military service will help me later in life.”
“The military has influenced me as a person,” Wolfe said. “It has instilled leadership and integrity in me. It’s given me structure and organization. I’ve learned about priority and teamwork.”
While Wolfe and Rehman may live two different lifestyles as student soldiers-from being independent college students during the week to falling in line, taking orders, and working as a team in the military on weekends-but they two say it is a lifestyle they would not change.
“At first it was difficult being behind,” Wolfe said. “But I wouldn’t trade the military experiences I’ve had to be a different point in my life academically. I’ve learned to accept the fact that I’m going to be behind. It’s worth the trade-off.”
Upon the completion of his third three-year contract with the National Guard in 2010, Wolfe said he does not plan to renew his military service. Like many other college students, Wolfe said he intends to graduate and begin the job search.
For Wolfe and Rehman, their love and loyalty for their country exceeds their individual priorities. The two say patriotism led them on a different mission than graduating from college in four years.
Their everyday call of duty?
To study and to serve.