When Ryan O’Reilly and Alayna Grossnickle joined BYU’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), neither of them was looking to find companionship or break school records, much less do both together.
O’Reilly and Grossnickle hold the records for men and women respectively for the Army Combat Fitness Test, which involves six events: deadlift, standing power throw, hand-release push-ups, sprint drag carry and a two-mile run. For each event, a max score of 100 points is possible, with 600 points being a perfect score. O’Reilly is the only man at BYU to ever reach a perfect score, and Grossnickle has the highest women’s score at 598 points.
The two independently decided to join ROTC, where they met. O’Reilly said he had been planning on joining the military for a long time.
Grossnickle and O’Reilly were both placed in the squad and competed on the Ranger Challenge Team. They were in the same military science class and trained together.
“He started talking about the military around his junior year (of high school),” Denise O’Reilly, Ryan O’Reilly’s mother, said. “We are patriotic people and we love our country, but none of us are military. It’s nowhere in the family or anything.”
While neither Grossnickle nor O’Reilly has a military family, they will both be officers after they graduate and begin active duty assignments, they said.
“The goal of ROTC is to commission as officers and either contract for eight years and do that part-time, or there is a four-year contract for active duty,” Grossnickle said. “We both want to go active duty.”
Grossnickle explained that within the Army, there are different branches based on what the soldiers want to do. Ryan O’Reilly, upon graduation, said he hopes to join the infantry while Grossnickle wants to join the finance core.
A day in the life of O’Reilly and Grossnickle consists of various activities. Their mornings generally start at five in the morning, before getting to the gym at 5:30 a.m. to begin working out. After working out for an hour and a half, they both attend their regular classes, they said.
On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, there is an additional lab they attend to run missions with their platoon or Ranger Challenge Team practice, which can consist of Tactical Casualty Combat Care, which is first aid in a combat environment as well as weapons assembly and disassembly.
Beginning ROTC and working towards becoming an officer in the military upon graduation requires learning new skills and life lessons, according to O’Reilly. Grossnickle said she has been able to learn teamwork during her time in ROTC, as the physical pressures of the program help members of a squad bond together.
“There is the military skills component, which is completely new to me,” Grossnickle said. “But life skills wise, working with a team under physical pressure builds mental strength.”
O’Reilly said he believes that participating in ROTC and preparing for army service is helpful in preparing for the future, both inside of the military and out.
“Leadership skills and discipline is applicable to any career out there. I think it pushes you to your limits but you still have to perform under pressure, and while you are doing that help others along the way to accomplish a common goal,” he said.