Montgomery Co. high school students trained by US Navy SEALs

How would you like a US Navy SEAL as your personal trainer?

For a group of 50 Montgomery County high school students, that’s exactly what they’ve had this year.

Today in Silver Spring, Maryland came the final exam -- the “SEAL Team Fitness Challenge.”

This was no pop quiz. These high school students, from four Montgomery County high schools, have prepared for months for today’s test.

Since February the students have trained three times a week – many times with the assistance of US Navy Seals at their training session. The initiative is part of a community outreach program to inspire young students to set and meet goals.

The students had to complete a tough physical course – a 500 yard swim under 12:30, a round of pushups, sit-ups and pull-ups and then finish a 1.5 mile run under 11 minutes.

“It was pretty tough but I was able to push through and finish,” High School Junior Davit Girma said after the challenge at the Montgomery County Recreation Center in Silver Spring, Maryland today.

But the training was mental as well. SEAL teams held seminars and speeches to inspire and teach students about their signature SEAL mental toughness.

The SEAL teams said over the course of the training they could see growth in the students, beyond just a better fitness level.

“At first they seemed somewhat timid and apprehensive and now I see they are a little more aggressive, a little more confident little bit more motivated today,” Senior SEAL Chief Joseph Jones, one of the group’s trainers said today. “Personally I feel that high school kids are at a transition point in their life so they are going to have to know how to be mentally tough.”

The teenagers are chosen as part of Montgomery County’s Recreation Sports Academy from high risk neighborhoods but also from homes where adult supervision after school is less likely. The hope is that being outside exercising will fill up that afternoon time with something positive.

“Instead of like going home to play video games you get active, you help your body out and become healthier,” challenge finisher and high school Junior Rodolfo Sanchez said today, “It was tough but I feel good.”

“We’ve been able to encourage leadership, teambuilding, mental toughness, goal setting, visualization, it’s a lot of the unique aspects that Navy seals bring in addition to physical fitness,” Jose Segura, Recreational specialist in Montgomery County says of the program, “the character development, the growth that you see within them – the maturity a lot of these students have grown as they have never been exposed to anything like this when they have been challenged.”

And in the sea of men at today’s challenge, there was one lone woman.

Women aren’t yet allowed to join the US Army’s SEAL teams. While women can serve in the US Special Forces as information specialists and civil affairs specialists, the 1994 combat exclusion policy precluded women from being assigned to ground combat units.

So today, high school student Mercy Nuhu had something to prove just to herself.

“It make me feel different, not special per se but it makes me feel that I am tough enough,” Nuhu, a challenger course finisher said.