Sal and Santino Sengson have always been high achievers, but before the summer of 2020 these teenage brothers from Flowery Branch High had not been challenged with a taste of the military lifestyle.
Like everything else, Sal, 17, and Santino, 16, passed with flying colors at the three-week Extreme Military Challenge, which ended July 25 in the appropriately-named Battleground, Alabama.
The youngest of five siblings, the Sengsons are good athletes and strong students. Both hold down part-time jobs and stay out of trouble.
However, their parents, Kelly and Brian, thought they needed a look at life outside their comfortable bubble.
And it worked.
Upon graduation, Sal, a rising senior at Flowery Branch, was tabbed as the overall honor graduate out of approximately 100 youth, ages 13-18 in attendance. Santino, a rising junior, was named topped performer of his platoon.
“My sons excelled,” Brian said. “We have had some really good things come out of their experiences.”
Even though neither of the Sengsons had prior interest in joining the military, which hasn’t changed since returning home, they made the most of the situation.
They followed strict orders, kept clean barracks, were up at the crack of dawn doing drills and performed rigourous physical challenges.
Despite many changes to the experience, due to the coronavirus pandemic, participants were still pushed physically, while still following safety guidelines.
Sal, who is a standout football and soccer player for the Falcons, set a new-camp record in the two-mile run with a mark of 11-minutes, 55-seconds. Santino, who plays tennis for the Falcons in the spring, was also a high achiever in the same event, crossing the line at 13 minutes.
Santino earned his distinction with an attention to detail — day and night. He also learned, quickly, that drills would be repeated until done to the directing sergeant’s satisfaction.
“They berated us a lot, but they were doing it for a reason,” said Santino.
Sal said his meticulous physical training, even during the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, made the Extreme Military Challenge not as difficult as it was for most boys and girls on hand.
Now home, Sal will continue his intense athletic and academic workload. He’s projected to be a wide receiver or tight end for Flowery Branch’s football program in the fall, while also taking courses at the Gainesville Campus of the University of North Georgia.
Their father said the military discipline will help them as they transition to becoming adults.
“I’m very thankful for everything they learned with the Extreme Military Challenge,” Brian said.