NCAA Division I service academy schedules
Army at Kent State, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Navy vs. Central Michigan, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Air Force vs. New Mexico, Saturday, 4 p.m. MT
Army vs. Vassar, Friday, 7 p.m.
Navy vs. Buffalo, Saturday, noon
Air Force vs. CU Colorado Springs, Sunday, 2 p.m. MT
Army vs. Oklahoma Gold Classic (Brockport, NY), all day
Air Force vs Cowboy Open (Laramie, WY), all day
Army vs. Mercyhurst 7 p.m.
Air Force vs. Colorado College 7 p.m. MT
Army vs. Wagner (Staten Island), Friday, 5 p.m.
Navy at Siena, Friday, 7 p.m.
Air Force at Lipscomb, Friday, 1 p.m. MT
» 12/11/13 - Born to serve » 11/26/13 - Student-athletes among 2014 Rhodes Scholars » 11/26/13 - The poet in pads
DIVISION III NEWS
» 12/11/13 - Born to serve
» 11/26/13 - Student-athletes among 2014 Rhodes Scholars
» 11/26/13 - The poet in pads
By Derek Dunning
Norwich football student-athlete Charles Stiles.
Charles Stiles hasn’t gone the traditional route through college.
The 27-year-old strong safety on the Norwich football team arrived in fall 2008 after having served two tours in Iraq as a member of the United States Marine Corps.
“As far as I can remember and growing up as a teenager, I wanted to be in the Marine Corps,” Stiles said. “I had some strong influences and mentors, and they kind of steered me into that direction. My senior year of high school was also 9/11 so that kind of had a strong influence on my decisions as well.”
Stiles gave up his traditional path through college and returned home during his freshman year at a Division II college in his home state of Pennsylvania.
“I had a scholarship to play football at Millersville University, but I left school during my first year for family reasons and to help out at home,” he said. “All my friends were over in Iraq and I wanted to be a part of that so I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2003.”
Stiles was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, for three years and during that time he was sent over to Iraq twice. He was in 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion with a military operations specialty of communications and returned from his first tour in September 2004 and came home from the second in the spring of 2007.
Norwich is a Division III school with an enrollment of 2,100 located in central Vermont in the town of Northfield. Stiles’ tours of duty had a large impact on how he ended up at Norwich when he found out about the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP).
“I was actually influenced by my staff non-commissioned officer in Okinawa to join the program,” Stiles said. “We submitted the packet to try and get accepted by the Marine Corps headquarters.”
MECEP provides members of the military a tuition scholarship to attend school in hopes they can bring their experiences as an active member of the military to the corps.
“The goal of the program is to take enlisted marines and give them an education at a university with an ROTC program and then upon completion of your degree, you get commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps as a second lieutenant,” he said.
Norwich football student-athlete Charles Stiles.
In his three years at Norwich, Stiles has been a standout not only on the football field but also a liaison and mentor for the Corps of Cadets as a member of MECEP.
Norwich assistant coach Mark Murnyack initially recruited Stiles when he graduated from high school in 2002. Six years later, the offer was still on the table.
“I was looking at a few other places, but I kind of wanted to go to a smaller school with a close-knit community. Vermont provided an opportunity to focus on my academics and not all the other distractions that can come along with a college lifestyle.”
During Stiles’ career, Norwich has gone from a 2-8 record in 2008 to an 8-3 record and Eastern Collegiate Football Conference championship in 2009, as well as another strong season this year at 8-2. The Cadets are currently awaiting word an Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Bowl game bid that will be announced on Monday.
“It’s been an eventful process,” Stiles said. “Nobody really likes to lose. But, it’s been pretty exciting the past few years seeing the transformation of the team from not only the players; but with the coaching staff too. It’s been a pretty moving experience.”
Stiles missed one game this season, a 64-7 win over Becker College due to a mandatory military event.
As an active-duty marine, Stiles simply said, “the military comes first.”
Upon graduating in May next spring, Stiles will go through a series of schooling with the Marine Corps to find a suitable job for him to carry out the remainder of his service.
“My first and foremost choice would be to be a pilot,” Stiles said. “I would like the challenge and getting out of my comfort zone and jumping on a new opportunity. But I would also have no problems with going back to ground side and being an infantry officer.”
In nine games this season, Stiles has recorded 29 solo tackles and 16 assists for 37 total tackles, which ranks fifth on the team. He also has three pass break-ups and one forced fumble.
Derek Dunning is assistant sports information director at Norwich, the oldest private military institute in the country and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.