The Iron Woman - Tyler Profio
Just a few short years ago, Tyler Profio had never seen herself being involved in a high school junior officer training (JROTC) program, or even wanting to pursue a career in the military.
“The group of people I hung out with in middle school weren't really like the JROTC kids,” Profio, a junior at Lee County High School, said recently. “But when I was in 7th grade, I saw the JROTC come in and present to us. They talked about leadership skills and the family they are. So I went home and told my parents that that's what I wanted to do. They were like 'what?'”
But with her family's support, that was the beginning of a life-changing journey for Profio. She went on to not only get involved in the Yellow Jacket JROTC program but also join its elite Raiders team, which competes in various physical challenges against other teams from across the state and nation. The Raider teams in JROTC programs compare themselves to College ROTC Ranger teams.
The challenges include personal fitness tests, distance running, team rescues, and various rope bridge activities.
“I'm always the casualty,” Profio said with a laugh, referring to the events in which her team has to “rescue” one of its members from some kind of simulated situation. “Because I'm the smallest one on the team.”
Being the smallest on the team, though, hasn't stopped Profio from performing or from taking the opportunity to be a leader. She's been named an “Iron Woman,” or the team's top female member, after making a perfect score on the Army's physical fitness test more than once. She's also the JROTC program's company commander for F Company, putting her in charge of more than 30 other students on a daily basis.
“I was always quiet and reserved when I was younger, but my friends knew I could be outspoken as well,” Profio explained further. “When those cadets came in and talked to us (in middle school), I knew that (joining JROTC) could help me with my confidence and people skills. School is great, and I've learned a lot from my teachers, but I feel like JROTC is the program that's educated me most about the real world.”
Not only has Profio's work on that Raiders team helped her develop the leadership and physical skills she'd hoped, it's also earned her an invitation to the United States Naval Academy's summer seminar in Annapolis, Maryland later this year.
The academy's summer program is intense – it's roughly a week of on-campus living with daily physical training, as well as various leadership development and other activities. Not exactly the same way other rising seniors plan to spend their summers, in other words. Profio, though, is excited – not just for the experience, but also for what it'll offer her in terms of a career path.
“I definitely want to do something with the military when I graduate, but I'm not sure what yet,” she said. “I'm looking at the Navy right now.”
For her part, though, Profio can't say enough about what the school's JROTC program and the Raiders team has done not only for her but for all of its members.
“It's not just about me, it's about everyone here,” she said. “To have been able to work with so many driven people is so motivating. It really is like a family – we all support each other and keep each other accountable. I just love them to death.”