By Megan Pearson
When students first join ROTC, they are thrust into a life of early morning workouts, combat training and weekend warfare simulations.
It definitely takes a special kind of person to keep up with the rigorous strain, both physical and mental, that Army cadets are put under. For someone who wasn’t even planning on joining the Army ROTC, Joel Woodruff has really made a name for himself by receiving one of the highest rankings in the nation.
The countless hours of preparation these students must endure are evaluated in a final test for Army placement, the Leadership Development Assessment Course (LDAC). This national ranking test is the equivalent of the GRE, MCAT or LSAT for Army cadets. Once the cadets have finished their ROTC training, they go to LDAC in Washington with cadets from across the nation and compete for placements on the Army’s national ranking list. Cadets that place high on the list get to choose what branch of the Army they will serve in.
Out of the thousands of cadets, Woodruff, 26, a recent graduate from BYU, scored high enough on the national list that the Army let him choose his branch of the military, and he chose the medical route so he could become a Medevac pilot.
“A military board picks about 25 people out of the nation each year … and I was chosen to go into the Medevac pilot program, so I lucked out,” Woodruff said with a laugh.
Medevac pilots have to be specially trained because of the intense missions they perform while unarmed.
“The difference between a normal pilot and a Medevac pilot is that the Medevac pilot flies in without any armored men,” Woodruff said. “Their sole purpose is to pick up the wounded and take them to a hospital or a base where they can get medical care.”
Lt. Jarom Ricks works for BYU’s Army ROTC and went through LDAC in 2009. He said students are evaluated on their leadership abilities along with their physical and mental capabilities.
“LDAC is a stressful situation; they do that on purpose,” Ricks said. “When you’re being evaluated while you’re tired and stressed, it’s a good way to test your leadership abilities.”
Ricks said he could tell Woodruff was going to be successful in the military the day he met him.
“There are people who just have innate leadership skills,” he said. “Joel is someone who I saw as very responsible. He’s a good example of someone who can come here, pay attention, be responsible and go to any great military school without any prior military background.”
Brad Reeder, 21, a senior majoring in biology, also wants to go into the medical field of the Army. He will be going to LDAC this summer.
“If you’re not nervous for LDAC, you’re not training hard enough,” Reeder said. “Literally, you take all you’ve learned in ROTC and you go for your big, final exam … but you don’t know what’s going to happen or what situation they’re going to throw at you, so you really have to be on top of your game.”
After LDAC, every cadet is put on the Order of Merit List, which ranks every cadet starting at the number one spot. Based on the placement of the score, cadets gets to choose their branch of choice on a first-come, first-served basis. Reeder said the training BYU ROTC offers enables cadets to score high.
“Joel Woodruff scored really high on the OML,” Reeder said. “BYU tends to put out really high level cadets on the OML. Yes, ROTC trains toward the LDAC, but more importantly, they train toward being an officer in the Army … they don’t want to train you for a test.”
Besides maxing his physical fitness tests, doing exceptionally well academically and the high rankings from LDAC, Woodruff also received the George C. Marshall award from his battalion for his outstanding performance in ROTC.