ROTC Day shows prospects a glimpse of military life

Northridge High School student Hayley Troyer tosses a medicine ball during GCU ROTC Day on Saturday.

Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by Ralph Freso

GCU News Bureau

Think you’ve got what it takes?

Hayley Troyer replied in the affirmative before dead-lifting a bar of big weights.

“I really want to do something that will make a difference, and I didn’t want to do a 9-to-5 job. I wanted  something to push me and help people,” said Troyer, a Northridge High School (Middlebury, Indiana) participant in a Discover GCU weekend at Grand Canyon University that for the first time Saturday included GCU ROTC Day on Willow Field.

On a weekend when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shook the world, it brought up the possibilities of conflict to those interested in future service through the Reserve Officer Training Corp.

“If war happens, I’ll fight, I’ll protect,” she said.

Sophomore ROTC cadet Tristen Martin pushes possible recruits in the Ranger training challenge during ROTC Day.

Then Troyer threw a grenade and ducked behind a barrier. It was not live ammunition but part of the fitness tests, demonstrations and drills for students who are considering attending GCU and may be interested in ROTC, which offers paid tuition and a post-graduation military career.

They also did battle crawls, combat casualty care and had some fun on obstacle courses.

The idea for the day was launched after ROTC officials found that many freshmen on campus in leadership roles didn’t know about ROTC, said Major Troy Merkle, the officer in charge of GCU Army ROTC and an assistant professor of military science.

“We wanted to reach out to students before they get into school,” he said. “We are looking for scholars, we are looking for athletes and we are looking for leaders. Those three components are how we measure our students in their time here, turning them into second lieutenants in the Army.

“It’s not for everyone. We are looking for the person who has a drive to lead soldiers.”

The 40 Discover students who signed up for the demonstrations were greeted by leaders and current students who took them through drills that also were a fun competition.

Samuel Myers carries a weighted dummy during the Tactical Casualty Combat Care exercise.

Cadet Dawson Buck, a sophomore at GCU, said he rises every day at 4:45 a.m. for workouts and drills, and he loves it.

“It helped me build my discipline, and I needed that,” he said.

Buck had the job on Saturday of taking the group through a steep challenge: a down-and-back sprint, followed by dragging 90 pounds of weight the same distance, then two 40-pound kettlebells and a sideways shuffle run before a finishing sprint.

They call that fun in the ROTC.

But it’s not all workouts and war training. The ROTC offers students a chance to learn leadership skills in whatever profession they want to enter in jobs in or out of the military once their enlistment commitment ends. There is also personal growth.

“It’s really contributed to how I developed as a person. I became less shy, and it enabled me to part of field training and crawl in the mud or do events like this when I can help others become involved,” said Julianna George, a cadet and student at Arizona State, which partners with the GCU detachment.

It also can lead to a good job.

Freshman Devlin Sydow takes part in a weightlifting challenge during ROTC Day.

“Any job in the private sector, it’s likely that job exists in the military,” said Cadet Gaige Graham, a government studies major with emphasis in legal studies at GCU who plans to enter law school in the fall. “After that, I can join Army lawyers.”

He touts the military as a stable job, with good pay and benefits, as well as the opportunity to become a second lieutenant soon after graduation.

“Right away when you graduate you are in midlevel management in charge of 20 to 40 people and typically millions of dollars of equipment,” he said. “Those are the kinds of things that can make you competitive.”

Does he think potential cadets will be scared off by current conflicts?

“Frankly, that hasn’t come up a lot. Most people here have a passion to serve the country we love, so they aren’t worried about it,” he said. “They are here to serve.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.


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