Lozano: Looking to Fly

For immediate release – 9/10/2012 - #040
Lozano: Looking to Fly

LYNCHBURG, VA - Many students complain when they have to wake up on a Sunday before 10 a.m., or if the fire-alarm goes off in the dorms during the night.  For others, "sleeping in" on Sunday constitutes waking up at 6 a.m., and there is always a potential 3 a.m. "Night Raid", where no one goes back to sleep after.  The latter group cannot complain about those conditions, and that is the group Lynchburg College senior volleyball player Marion Lozano finds herself in. 

In the spring of 2011, Lozano made the decision to join the Air Force Reserves and was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.  The native of Manassas, VA jumped into the situation "blindly" and was in for a new experience.  "Marion is a very light hearted and easy going person," head volleyball coach Beth Ellinger said, "therefore when she came to us and told us her decision we were very surprised.  We wanted to show her unwavering support as this decision would better her future after LC."  Lozano then began eight and a half weeks of boot camp and had to leave her previous life behind.

New recruits are allowed only the simplest of necessities.  No phone, no computer, no soda, and very little sleep.  Lozano had to adjust to the 4:45 a.m. wake-up time, and the even more difficult potential "Night Raids," where officers inspect the dorms and make sure everyone is awake and the place is neat.  With the lack of technology, Lozano also had to use different ways to communicate with friends and family.  She started writing letters to her coaches, teammates, and family.  People responded with words of encouragement; teammates Rachel Huffman and Rebecca Loftis were among the well-wishers, with Loftis "writing more letters than [Marion's] mom."  It was an adjustment, but one that changed her.

During boot camp, Lozano had to make a decision on which job she would pursue.  She took a placement test and she decided to join the security forces.  Lozano made the selection based on the location of where she would be stationed in the Air Force Reserves.  Lozano said, "It's a decision I don't regret, but I wish I was more aware of everything I was getting myself into."  She wanted to be close to home and close to LC and chose the path which would send her to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.  After making the decision, she moved onto technical school, also at Lackland AFB.

Technical school would prove to be different from boot camp, but still difficult.  The trainees had to wake up on their own at 4:30 a.m. five days a week for physical training (called "PT").  They are given back technology, but it is not for use in class, which lasts eight hours a day.  While some people compare technical school to college, there are several differences: the same room for all eight hours, one ten-minute break every hour where talking is not allowed, desks have to be ordered a certain way, and it is required to run everywhere within the building.  With all of those rules, Lozano did state there was more freedom at technical school.

Other changes arose for Lozano during this time, she was allowed use of a cell phone and a computer.  Former teammate Mallory Stewart and others continued sending care packages.  She also used firearms for the first time, learning how to fire, assemble, and disassemble them.  Now she is proficient with an assortment of weapons including M9s and M4s.

Lozano graduated from technical school on November 2.  With her initial training complete, she flew back home the next day, and drove down to watch her friends and teammates play in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) tournament.

Lozano had learned a great deal and missed as much during her time training.  For one she had missed her entire junior season.  She missed time with her friends and was coming back to a team with new players that she had not had many experiences with.  But there were many positives as well.  Lozano made many friends from all over the country, and even one person from Germany, and some as young as 17 and others in their 30s.  Joining the reserves will help pay for her Lynchburg education and the further graduate or trade schools that she may attend.  It also led her to getting a job this past summer at a missile defense agency.  She worked with people she would never have had the chance to meet had she not joined.

Lozano came back to school last spring and noticed different aspects of life.  Lozano said, "[she began] to see things differently" after leaving the highly disciplined military life and going to the relaxed college life.  It was tough to understand how people could complain about having a paper due, or not being able to use their cell phone in class.  She appreciates the little things a lot more after the experience, especially coming into her senior year.

This year, Lozano has two major aspirations which will both be very time consuming: to help the volleyball team win the ODAC title, and to graduate on time.  On the court she knows the team is a very strong one and she hopes to provide leadership in order to push them over the top.  The fact that at boot camp everything a person does is wrong makes it easier for her to take constructive criticism on the court.  When things got really tough during training, older airmen would encourage the inexperienced trainees.  Good leaders are vital to the success of any group and Lozano knows that first hand.  Positive encouragement can help younger players and older players at any time, and she will be the first to provide it, as long as she is there.  "I am very proud of Marion.  She has displayed a great deal of leadership as she transitions back into this program," stated Coach Ellinger.

On February 11, 2012, she was sworn into the U.S. Air Force Reserves and it requires her to be a member for six years.  This duty means one weekend a month (Drill) and two weeks a year (Annual Training) will be devoted to training.  Lozano missed the first scrimmage, picture day, and a fun team-bonding activity because of weekend training.  There are future conflicts as well.  But the support from her family, teammates, coach, and Air Force supervisor has helped her with those situations.  Currently, she is scheduled for Drill the weekend of the tournament at No. 1-ranked in the country Christopher Newport University.  Another Drill starts the morning after the game at ODAC rival Washington and Lee University.  "There's no way I'm missing W and L," Lozano stated, but she will have to miss the following game against Averett University and the game the next day against Shenandoah University.  She will also have to drive to the game herself.

All of these sacrifices are something she will have to accept and work with over the next five years.  But not only will she, but all of the people associated with Lozano will tell you they have helped her grow as a person.  While Lozano was scared the first night she was at boot camp and there were some parts she wished she had taken more time to examine, the choice of heading to San Antonio is one she is glad to have made.