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The Path Not Often Chosen

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Deffets awaiting adventure while serving in the military.

If they had listed their likes and dislikes in a career aptitude test, Will Deffet (WC ’16) and his brother Jake (WC ’17) would have had nearly identical results.

Both Worthington Christian graduates sought high-adventure, physically demanding jobs over employment in Corporate America that required wearing name tags, shuffling paperwork, and sitting behind a desk. After attending college, both enlisted in the U.S. military, with Will becoming an Airborne Ranger for the U.S. Army and Jake joining the U.S. Marine Corps.

Will, a first lieutenant and a company executive officer/infantry officer at the Elmendorf-Richardson Joint Base in Alaska, joked neither got exactly what they wanted.

“I wanted a challenge, and I saw military service as a cool experience outside of a normal desk job,” said Will, who is responsible for the resourcing, planning, and execution of Company-level training events and overseeing Company supply, property, and maintenance. “Now, after going through Ranger, airborne, and air assault school, I find myself at a military base … doing a desk job.”

“We’re both infantry guys, so we’re sort of in the same business,” added Jake, who was recently promoted to first lieutenant and is a rifle platoon commander at Camp LeJune in South Carolina. “For now, I have a lot of office work, keeping administrative tabs to ensure guys are medically ready and have done their annual training.”

Both know their jobs can change significantly at a moment’s notice. The Marines have been sent to nearly every conflict the United States has been involved with since World War II.

Likewise, the Airborne Rangers are one of the Army’s premier fighting units. They are often involved with high-stakes operations in hostile territories.

“I like to stay up on the news for that reason, especially in Palestine and Ukraine,” Jake said. “If anything pops up, we’re probably going there.”

Both men appear to be well prepared in case a conflict arises. Before being stationed in Alaska, Will underwent 22 weeks of Infantry Basic Officer Leader Courses, eight weeks of Ranger School in Georgia and Florida, and four weeks of Airborne/parachute training.

While most of his peers often had to repeat various phases of Ranger School, Will completed it in 62 straight days.

The experience pushed the older Deffet to the outer edges of his abilities.

“In training, I’ve hallucinated and slept walked on patrols due to lack of sleep and food,” Will said. “I remember (traveling) several miles on snowshoes carrying 80 pounds of gear only to be told to return after we arrived.”

Jake went through a similarly challenging Infantry Officer Training Course designed to push Marines to their physical and mental limits, as well as Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Va.

The Infantry Officer Training Course, according to Jake, was brutal.

“We were nonstop training in over 100-degree heat,” he said. “Both of my ankles were swollen so I couldn’t bend my feet.”

A doctor told Jake that if he tried to participate in the hike planned for that day, he would end up in the hospital tomorrow.

Jake decided to fight his way through it and prove the doctor wrong. He didn’t end up in the hospital the following day. He ended up in the hospital four hours later and spent three days in recovery.

Kara Deffet, the boys’ mother, said that her sons push themselves to the limit, which doesn’t surprise her, but Will and Jake’s decision to enlist caught both Kara and Brian Deffet off guard.

Neither boy was into video games like Call of Duty or Command and Conquer, nor did they play soldier with toy guns growing up. Brian Deffet’s father, George, was in the Army, and Kara Deffet’s father, Kent Underwood, enlisted in the Navy.

“Other than that, we are not from a military family, just a very patriotic one,” Kara said. “Both Will and Jake have always pushed themselves to their physical and mental limits. The military provided adventure and physical activity that appealed to them.”

While people often picture a hardscrabble existence on a snowy tundra, Will said being assigned to an Alaskan post perfectly fits him.

“I love the state of Alaska and its outdoor opportunities,” he said. “We get to go fishing, hiking, and hunting all summer, followed by backcountry powder snowboarding all winter. 

“We had -10 degree temperatures for a week last winter, but it mostly stayed above 0. During the summer, the weather is beautiful, and the extended daylight lets you stay out longer and do more every weekend. It’s like living in a national park with mountains outside my house.”
While Will enjoys the Alaskan frontier, Jake said the balmy weather of the Dominican Republic made him consider enlisting.

After traveling to the D.R. with his classmates his senior year, Jake spent a gap year working with a Christian outreach in the Dominican Republic.

“That senior trip is probably the most valuable thing that happened to me in high school,” he said.

“Some of the best classes I took at Worthington Christian are all the Bible classes because they laid the best foundation for me. Once you’re no longer at Worthington Christian or in a (exclusively) Christian environment, your foundation becomes the most valuable thing. That’s what stays with you.”

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