Who would have thought that the young woman yelling at high school students on an obstacle course had a soft side? Two, actually: one as an aspiring accountant who can quietly go about auditing books, the other as a clarinetist making music.
Make that three: the hollering gradually softened to the point that those students looked on her as a big sister in the world of survival training.
Such is the life of Clarice Wellmeier, who is entering her fifth year at Wright State University as an accountancy major and a clarinet minor. Her interest in survival training is a nod to her military background and her fondness for teaching.
Wellmeier was born into the Air Force, at the Medical Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where her father was stationed.
As a student at Stebbins High School in Riverside, she joined the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and took part in its survival training course in the summer before her senior year. Academically, she gravitated toward accounting because she liked business and math.
In the meantime, she continued playing the clarinet, which she took up at age 8, again, with a nod to her family background. Her father is a guitarist.
When it came time to pick a college, Wellmeier liked Wright State’s Accountancy Program and that the university was close to home. She also wanted to continue studying the clarinet.
“I was torn between accounting and music,” Wellmeier said. “I thought I could do both.”
Wellmeier also considered joining Wright State’s Air Force ROTC program but was advised against it because of the time commitments her major and minor studies would demand.
While it looked like Wellmeier was done with ROTC, ROTC wasn’t done with Wellmeier.
When one of her high school teachers needed an experienced female instructor to help run the ROTC camp this summer, Wellmeier signed on as a cadet training assistant. For two weeks in June, she was among the Stebbins High School staff leading about 160 high school students from the Dayton area at Camp Perry, a famous military training site primarily used by the National Guard on the shore of Lake Erie.
She accepted the invitation because she liked her camp experience and wanted to see her teachers again, meet the students and get into teaching.
Teaching entailed drilling the students on how to stand, march, look and dress in uniform. Survival training was demanding in a different way.
“We had them learn how to make a fire from flint and steel and cotton, and then with just cotton and sticks and plants and a magnifying glass in case flint and steel weren’t available,” she said.
They students also learned how to build a shelter with sticks, plants and a tarp and practiced shooting at a firing range with air rifles. There was an obstacle course that included crossing a simulated minefield.
“They had to do that a few times to come up with a strategy and after a while they finally started to get it. They had to learn to work as a team,” said Wellmeier. “We noticed they got a lot better at communicating with each other and making sure everyone was involved.”
All the while, this accountant and musician had to holler and scream at the students to get them to bear down and focus on the tasks at hand. But eventually she eased up and the students got to know her better.
“Some of them said they looked at me as their mom or big sister,” she said. “It was a really good experience overall. It was a hard couple of weeks, physically demanding.”
Wellmeier added, “The kids went back to their schools to take leadership positions, and they’ll use their new skills to get higher scores (in ROTC competitions).”
She also enjoyed experiencing the teaching side of survival training.
“When the kids would struggle, I knew how to help them, or if they came to me for anything, I could talk them through this,” she said. “It was nice being in that position.”
Wellmeier is scheduled to graduate from Wright State in December, after which she hopes to work as an accountant and eventually an auditor. She is looking forward to traveling to study the books of businesses and agencies.
She plans to continue playing the clarinet, as well as the piano and the saxophone, which she has started to learn. Wellmeier sings with the Collegiate Chorale and plays with the Wind Symphony at Wright State. She also joined the Springboro Wind Symphony and plans to join other music ensembles.
Wright State is special to her.
“This is my second home, my safe place,” she said. “If I’m having a bad day, I go to the music building and sit or play the piano. There’s no stress.”
Wellmeier is not done with Stebbins High School, either. She will help teach clarinet at band camp and has been invited back to teach at the Air Force ROTC cadet event at Camp Perry next year.