DURHAM, N.C. - Juggling academics with practice schedules and competitions can be a difficult balance for student-athletes to strike, but for two members of the Duke men’s swimming and diving team, another commitment is a part of daily life on campus. Junior Stefan Knight and freshman Jack Carey are both members of the Duke Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps – also known as NROTC – with plans to enlist in the Navy following graduation.
Knight and Carey attend early morning physical training with other Duke Midshipmen once a week, in addition to practicing and competing with the Blue Devil squad. They take classes in naval science on top of their normal course load, complete Battalion labs and perform other duties on campus to fulfill their responsibilities to the NROTC program. Managing their time has proven challenging, but both say they have learned a lot from the experience.
Carey says he has known he wanted to serve in the military since childhood. His first semester at Duke was a challenge as he learned to fit in all of his commitments, but he says he looks forward to taking on more responsibilities and going through more training in the summer months.
“When I tell people [about ROTC], they always respond to it very well,” Carey says. “A lot of my cousins have been involved in it and a lot of them were swimmers, too. One of my cousins swam for Virginia Tech and did Army ROTC.”
Though Knight had limited connections to the military before joining NROTC, his involvement has inspired plans for his future. A native of Carlsbad, Calif., he spent this past summer stationed on a ship in San Diego, training with a naval fleet.
“It was a great experience seeing the people there and what they do and how fast-paced of an environment it is, especially when you’re underway,” he said. “You’re just always going and always doing something, which is very much how I am.”
Knight has also had the opportunity to be a part of the Color Guard for Duke football and basketball games. He says the honor of presenting the colors in front of large crowds in Wallace Wade and Cameron Indoor has been one of his favorite experiences.
“Last year, I got to do it for the Duke-North Carolina football game, so it was really packed,” he said. “I was down on the field and I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is crazy.’ It’s very nerve-racking [but] a lot of fun.”
Other duties specific to NROTC include working the guest services tent at home football games and overseeing younger Midshipmen in leadership roles. All of the experiences, coupled with their class work, are designed to prepare program members for future active military service or service in the National Guard or Reserves.
Knight plans to seek active service in aviation as a member of the Navy, with his goal being to fly helicopters. He says he has also considered working on a surface ship. Similarly, Carey also hopes to pursue a path in aviation with the possibility of becoming an astronaut.
Despite the challenges presented by their rigorous studies and involvement in both a Division I varsity sport and NROTC, Knight and Carey are appreciative of the opportunities and all they are learning.
“More and more I’m very glad I did it,” Knight says. “It’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve made.”