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2022 Graduate On to His Next Journey

Only weeks after receiving his diploma, 2022 Cleburne High School graduate Tyler Wisenbaker started the next chapter in his life.

                Wisenbaker shipped out the weekend of 4th of July celebrations to U.S. Army Infantry School. This is his second trip to Fort Benning, after joining the U.S. Army National Guard in his junior year. Because he was still in high school, his infantry training was split into two sessions. He officially “turned green” in August of 2021 following ten weeks of basic combat training, in becoming a member of the nation’s armed forces.

                “I believe this is what God wants me to do,” Wisenbaker said. “But the experience I had last summer was completely different than anything I had ever done before. I was glad—but I never dreamed I would be a member of the U.S. Army in my senior year of high school.”

                After passing a recruiting poster on his way to class, Wisenbaker said he began praying and spending a lot of alone time contemplating his future and the possibility of joining the military. His grandfather served in the Air Force.

                “I thought about it a lot,” he said. “When you’re a kid, the Army looks cool, but it’s also a lot to take in—and a little scary.”

                He ultimately chose to move forward and went to the Army recruiting office in the middle of his junior year. After passing the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, administered by the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command to determine qualification for enlistment in the nation’s armed forces, Wisenbaker experienced his first training at Fort Benning. Two days after the end of school, he was immersed in days that began at 5 a.m. and ended with lights out at 9 p.m.

                “The minute you’re there—you are in the Army—you’re there,” Wisenbaker said. “You’re tested to see who will stay and who will quit. Everyone questioned themselves at some point. I admit I doubted myself at times. But I’d signed a commitment—and I wasn’t going to quit.”

                “I looked forward to those 30-minute Sunday phone calls with my family,” he said. “I know my parents looked forward to them even more. Getting letters was like Christmas.”

                “Tyler is an amazing young man,” his mother, Kristie Wisenbaker said. “He went away for training last summer and ten weeks later, came back an official U.S. Army soldier. He was so excited to go back and worked very hard to be ready. We are very proud of him and his accomplishments. He has achieved his goal and his desire to serve his country.”

As he went through the red, white and blue phases of his first season of basic training, Wisenbaker successfully completed a lengthy list of challenges—both physical and mental. From his excitement in throwing live hand grenades and repelling down a 70-foot tower to the dreaded gas chamber training, he methodically checked each box required in mastering the Soldier skills.

                “I really enjoyed the land navigation exercises,” he said. “We used maps and compasses and azimuths in finding our next position. We also learned hand-to-hand combat. I had to go up against my drill segreant on the last day of that training. We had to either pick up our opponent or thrown them down—I ultimately threw him down.”

                  Achieving the required score in rifle marksmanship proved to be one of the most trying tests for Wisenbaker, who celebrated his 18th birthday during training.

                “You needed a qualifying score of 23 and I was on 22 forever,” he said. “I was a sharpshooter on the digital screen, but not In the field. Everyone was qualifying—but not me. It was so annoying. I had one day left and was still one point away. That Sunday phone call to my parents helped a lot—they were so encouraging.”

                “In a qualifying attempt, you have three tries,” he said. “You can extend that to four and pass the test, but what that means is you’re not too great. On my last day, I hit 18 on the first round, 22 on the second—and I hit 25 on the third. It felt so good after three straight weeks of being stuck on 22.”

                Wisenbaker carried his Army-issue backpack throughout his senior year at CHS. His closest friends knew how he had spent his summer, along with several of his teachers. Among them was Jackets tennis Coach Brett Almond.

                “He had shared that this was something he wanted to do,” Almond said. “Last spring, you could really tell he was focused on his return to training. I coached Tyler in tennis all through high school and I knew that once he made that decision, he was invested 100 per cent. He has very strong ethics and is always focused on being the best he can be. I saw that in tennis and in other areas of his life.”

                “I tell kids that when you find your passion and what you want to do in life, you should go for it,” Almond said. “I think it’s great and amazing that Tyler did just that. When he came back from training at the start of his senior year you could see how he had grown, and not just physically. I think it gave him a new perspective. He knew what he was going to be doing after high school—he had a plan.”

                Agricultural Engineering teacher Dean Black also had some discussions with Wisenbaker regarding his future, and how the skills he was mastering in Ag Science and welding would be helpful.

                “Tyler stood out as a leader both in and out of the classroom,” Black said. “I had him as a student for three years and he was always extremely hardworking.  We were proud to have him represent our Cleburne FFA chapter and he competed in our spring weld-off.”

                Wisenbaker agreed that he was a stronger, fitter Cleburne Yellow Jacket who indeed had a new view of things as he went through his senior year.

                “I was a little stronger—and could run faster—but it was more than that,” he said. “School, compared to training, is easy. There had been times I had a negative attitude about school. But school is important—it gives you the solid ground to build on. What you do in school, especially in your final year, can determine what your future will be like.”

                Wisenbaker has both immediate and long-term plans for his future, beginning with the completion of this second stage of training and turning from green to blue—in graduation ceremonies celebrating the successful completion of infantry training. His parents will be in attendance to pin the Infantry Blue Cord on his shoulder.

                “I’m a kid who finished his senior year knowing he was going straight into the military,” he said. “It’s exactly what I wanted to do. I love traveling, and will get to do that, even though I will be told where I am going. I want to go to college and would like to attend Tarleton State University. I like welding and underwater welding looks super cool. But I have some really hard work to do first—it’s called ‘being in the Army.’”

Lisa Magers, Director of Community Relations