ST. LOUIS — It's pool day at Pattonville High School. It may sound relaxing on a warm day in late spring. It's anything but relaxing to the young men and women dripping wet, dressed in military workout gear. The guy yelling through a bullhorn makes sure of that.
“You want to be leaders!? You want to command!? Then start to act like it!," shouted Hausher into his bullhorn.
"I tell them right off the bat, you're not going to like me. You're going to hate me. Quite frankly, if I do my job, that's a good thing," said Keath Hausher, founder of Patriot Training Foundation.
Hausher's non-profit Patriot Training Foundation trains future military leaders, St. Louis area young people who are headed to military academies and college ROTC programs. There is weightlifting, firearms instruction, and boxing. But it's the water training that's as intense as it gets.
Most of the trainees are either in high school or college and all have plans to join the military. On pool days, the trainees spend several hours in and out of the pool. They swim. They tread water while holding a large water bottle. They bear crawl and do burpees on the deck of the pool. Followed by pushups and squats. They dive from the 10-meter board. And then they do it all over again to near exhaustion. Why?
"Because the sooner you get tough, the sooner you can start saving lives and being that leader that the military demands," said Hausher.
Hausher's motivation is straight from the heart because a health condition prevented the personal trainer from serving in the military.
"I have no military experience whatsoever. I had a health condition coming out of high school. I wanted to serve, my family served, and I was rejected for a minor heart condition," said Hausher. "The ultimate goal is to make them more prepared when they enter the military so that right off the bat they're seen as somebody who is qualified, a good leader, a good peer leader for someone."
St. Louisan Abby Zyk will be a senior at Virginia Military Academy this fall. The future U.S. Marine has been attending Patriot Training since high school, and is now a peer instructor.
"The skills that I have learned here have become crucial fundamentals of getting through VMI, of qualifying for the Marine Corps and going into OCS (officer candidate school), which will be my first real big test to be in the actual Marine Corps," said Zyk.
On a recent visit back to hometown St. Louis, U.S. Marine 1st Lieutenant Hannah Lois paid a visit to this year's Patriot Training Foundation sessions. The PTF alumnus is close to completing training to fly Huey helicopters.
"I spent the last two years in flight school, lots of studying, lots of flying and now I’m at the Fleet Replacement Squadron, the FRS, doing my last bit of work to get qualified on the Huey," said Lois.
Lois credits Patriot Training for giving her a rock-solid foundation before entering the U.S. Naval Academy.
"It's the leadership, it's the skills in the water, the skills of shooting, and just your basic core leadership, your mental toughness, everything," said Lois.
The Patriot Training Foundation is an all-volunteer non-profit, with ex-military volunteers dedicated to helping the next generation of soldiers.
"To see them thrive and to see them graduate down the road and take their commands and do groundbreaking things is worth more than I could ever get paid for this," said Hausher. "And as far as we know, we are the only one like it in the country that gets all this training to them without a single dime. And we all volunteer our time to do it. So we're not getting compensated other than the knowledge that we're doing something to help other people to serve."
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