For Alayna Grossnickle, Utah’s arid desert climate contrasts the lush landscape of her hometown in Maryland. While the distance from her family back on the farm could make her feel homesick, she has found a family of support in an unexpected place: the Brigham Young University Army ROTC.
Grossnickle was still a relatively new member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she moved to Provo to attend BYU. “Everything here was new to me, and I didn’t know anyone when I started,” she says.
Grossnickle's father, recognizing that the transition to BYU presented unique challenges for his daughter, frequently encouraged her to join the ROTC. “I didn’t do the ROTC my first year at BYU, and my dad kept saying I should join,” Grossnickle says.
The encouragement Grossnickle received from her father strengthened the positive feelings she always had toward the military. “I've really always had an appreciation for service members and our country,” Grossnickle says.
Deciding to join the ROTC took some time for her. “Even while I was on a church mission in Ecuador, I kept thinking about it,” Grossnickle explains. “I put off the idea for a while because I wasn’t sure what the environment would be like,” And as a woman, she was worried about being the only female in the program. “Joining the Army seemed very off-brand for me.”
Ultimately Grossnickle realized that she just needed to make the decision. She could disregard the ROTC and pursue other activities in college, or she could spend much of her time at BYU with the ROTC. So she confronted her fears and enrolled in the Army ROTC.
“At first, being in the ROTC was not comfortable at all. I felt like everyone else was so experienced.” But Grossnickle quickly began working hard with her comrades. “The hard work reminded me of getting dirty and working on my family’s farm,” she adds. “Growing up, I didn’t enjoy working on the farm, but now, looking back, I’m grateful I did.”
Also, to her relief, she discovered that she wasn’t the only woman and that she could excel as a female member of the ROTC. “I’ve never felt unwelcome for any reason. As a woman I’ve been treated equally and with respect,” she says.
The ROTC’s camaraderie brings a sense of belonging and peace for Grossnickle. “Everyone is so welcoming and patient. Everyone has your back from the start, both inside and outside of the program,” Grossnickle says. For her, being a part of the ROTC has been an answer to her search for a fostering environment far from her home in Maryland.
Since beginning the ROTC, she’s participated in elite physical and mental ROTC competitions, including the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at the US Military Academy at West Point.
Because of the encouraging environment in the Army ROTC program at BYU, Grossnickle plans on commissioning in the US Army after graduation. “Everything the Army stands for is what I want to stand for,” she says. Serving in the US Army, Grossnickle will utilize her accounting degree that she’ll earn from the BYU Marriott School of Business. “I’d like to get into logistics, budgeting, analysis, and maybe military intelligence where I’d focus on audit or fraud.”
Whatever happens, Grossnickle knows that she has the support to be successful. “Family is so important to me. My family in Maryland has always supported me, despite the distance, and my ROTC family does the same."
Written by Jake Holt