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Student Experiences

11 Cadets, One Big Accomplishment

Strapped in full gear, weapons, and backpacks, 11 BYU Army ROTC cadets hauled themselves up the steepest hills and terrain to finish the first day of the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition. As the cadets, who are from the BYU Army ROTC program hosted by the BYU Marriott School of Business, started to approach the end of the last task, a cadet from the team ahead became injured, falling behind. The BYU students stopped to help this competitor finish the rest of the challenge.

BYU Army ROTC team, including all 11 cadets, in front of Washington Hall at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Windmueller.

“The cadets will likely not mention this story if you ask them,” says Major General William "Hank" Taylor, deputy director for regional operation and force management for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “But seeing this team’s selfless service and leadership for another competitor gave them the ability to make a lasting impact in the competition.”

For the first time in history, BYU’s Army ROTC placed in the top five. This year 48 teams competed at the Sandhurst Competition held at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, on the last weekend of April 2022. This marks BYU’s highest-ever ranking since qualifying for the competition for the first time in 2003.

BYU Army ROTC team works together to complete the Zodiac boat event during the competition.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Windmueller.

Qualifying for this competition is no small task. An ROTC team must take first or second place in their task force and brigade Ranger Challenge competitions to advance to Sandhurst. From there, only 16 domestic teams are selected to compete at Sandhurst with West Point and international teams.

The teams completed the challenge over a 48-hour time frame, testing both their physical abilities and mental stamina. Tasks included a grenade assault course, a marine obstacle course, and tactical combat casualty care. BYU ROTC leaders who attended stated that every one of the cadets had a moment where their limits were stretched to the brink and some of their greatest skills were formed.

“A skill I’ve taken with me from Sandhurst is to acknowledge the physical and mental pain that another cadet is in before you ask them to move forward with more,” says squad leader Alex Jimenez. “During the last few events of the competition, I knew my teammates were hurting, and I confirmed that I knew how they felt. I then asked my teammates to come with me and push through the pain together in order to finish.”

BYU Army ROTC team returns to the rifle marksmanship firing line after checking their targets.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Windmueller.

At the end of one specific task, Jimenez shed a few tears. “It wasn’t because I was glad the challenge was over,” he says. “It was because I was filled with such pride as my teammates continued to surprise me with the effort they put forward even when it seemed like they had nothing left.”

Jimenez’s unwavering leadership inspired the rest of the team to continue, allowing them to claim their fifth-place finish. BYU ROTC faculty members are proud of this outstanding accomplishment from their cadets, and they are even prouder of the character developed within and shown by the students along the way.

“As I watched the cadets compete at Sandhurst, it had such a redemptive tone to it,” says Lieutenant Colonel Seth Miller of BYU’s Army ROTC program. “This team really focused on their marksmanship weaknesses from last year’s competition, and it paid off greatly for this year’s competition. It was great to see their efforts rewarded.”

BYU Army ROTC team conducts the tire flip event at the “Functional Fitness” station during the competition.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Windmueller.

The 11 cadets who competed in the competition are Brett Andersen, native of Pleasant Grove, Utah; McKenna Brown, from South Jordan, Utah; Aaron Campbell, of Salt Lake City; Aaron Clay, from Springville, Utah; Aidan Fryar, native of Provo; Alayna Grossnickle, from Knoxville, Maryland; Jose Jimenez, from Herriman, Utah; Colton Johnson, from Vancouver, Washington; Conner Nielsen, of Springville, Utah; Dantly Wilcox, native of Bend, Oregon; David Word, of Las Vegas.