WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- There are descriptive parallels, at least in a figurative sense, between the often frenzied, rough-and-tumble pace of collegiate basketball and the chaos of hand-to-hand military combat.
There is no symbolism at play, however, when Cathy Crosslin, the women's basketball coach at Whitman College, scans her bench for reinforcements. Crosslin frequently turns to a veteran who has been hardened -- literally -- by battlefield training.
Whitman, no doubt, is the only collegiate team in the country with a senior co-captain who has survived the grueling 10-week Officer Candidates Class at U.S. Marine headquarters in Quantico, Virginia.
Faye Hutchison, a 5-foot-1 guard from Snohomish, Wash., was one of 64 young women and Marine-wannabes who embarked last summer on the rigorous boot-camp regimen. While less than half of those women finished the program, Hutchison was one of the few, the proud, to graduate with flying colors.
She was the only member of her company, in fact, to score a perfect 300 on the program's three physical fitness tests, which included battle fitness runs, obstacle courses and day-long treks. Not bad for someone who was pulled aside at times by sergeant instructors, questioned about her age because of her relatively small stature, and asked, "Does your mother know you are here?"
The training program also included marching drills and classes in Marine Corps history, military tactics and leadership. Hutchison, who will accept a Second Lieutenant's commission after graduating from Whitman in May, says the overall experience added a great deal of perspective to her young life.
"The daily, simple things seem so much easier now," she says. "I think back to the 13th mile of a 15-mile hump, or practically dying of heat stroke. Then I think of those people who have done those things in combat, and it puts it all into perspective. It was so challenging, but it enabled me to realize my full potential. They tested every aspect of your being. Physically, mentally and spiritually. It was not a fun summer by any means, yet I learned a lot and would not trade the experience for anything."
Crosslin, noting that she has been "so proud to have been Faye's coach the past three years," was not surprised that she was "so successful in her military training. Clearly Faye is physically capable of any challenge placed before her. She is a leader in every sense of the word -- mentally tough, tenacious and loyal. She also has a terrific sense of humor, which seems to me essential in the world she will be entering post-graduation."
Hutchison, who at one time considered applying to the U.S. military academies, will not be the first member of her family to serve in the armed forces. One of her grandfathers was at Pearl Harbor during World War II, and one of her three sisters, Darcy Ruble, was a 19-year-old Air Force medical assistant stationed in Saudia Arabia during the Desert Storm operation.
"I have always been attracted to the life of the soldier, and I often think of the people who have given their lives for our country," Hutchison says. "I like to think I am doing my part and sacrificing a little bit of the same, although on a much smaller scale."
Hutchison, 21, who also served as captain of Whitman's cross country running team last fall, is majoring in foreign languages and literatures (Spanish). She plans to spend at least four years in the Marines and hopes to work in the intelligence field, where her second language might come in handy.
At some point Hutchison hopes to gain admission to the FBI Academy, which also is based at Quantico. Competition is intense for openings at the academy, but she hopes her Marine experience will make the difference.
"I feel attracted to that type of occupation because I enjoy working with people under pressure," she says. "I enjoy leadership positions and feel that I can make a strong contribution. There are too many talented young people who sell themselves short. I am not out to rule the world; I just hope to make an impact."
Hutchison, who graduated from Seattle's Lakeside School in 1994, is the daughter of Roderick and Claudette Hutchison of Snohomish, Wash. Her father is a Seattle firefighter, medic and member of a hazardous materials squad. Her mother is the fitness director at the Columbia Athletic Club in Mill Creek, Wash.
Dave Holden, Whitman Sports Information, (509) 527-5902
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