ROTC team captain prepares for international military competition

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David Word, returned missionary, husband and father, will return to Sandhurst for an international military competition in April.

This will be his third time competing in the event and this time, he will compete as the BYU ROTC team captain.

Growing up, Word had three older sisters. However, due to a seven-year age gap, he said he was raised as an only child since middle school. 

Word said his father was a police officer and so he grew up around role models who were wanting to serve the country. His grandfather served in the military as well. Because of this influence, Word said he always knew he wanted to serve in the military. 

Word kept himself busy when he was younger, participating in football, baseball, soccer, wrestling and swim and was also very involved in the scouting program and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. 

After attending BYU for one semester, Word said he served a full-time mission in Ghana. Word said Ghana is “definitely a third-world country,” but he loved roughing it and loved his mission. 

“I think the biggest thing my mission taught me was empathy,” Word said. “I can have empathy towards others, and love them, and help them without compromising what I stand for.” Word said his empathy has served him well in his time in the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and will continue to serve him well as he serves in the Army. 

When Word returned home from his mission, he said he joined the ROTC and started his degree in manufacturing engineering. He married Elisabeth Word after his first semester home from his mission in the Summer of 2019.

Together, David Word and his wife Elisabeth Word added a daughter, Maggie, to their family in November 2021. Elisabeth Word graduated BYU with a degree in molecular biology in April 2022 and now stays home with Maggie.

Elisabeth Word said she moved around a lot growing up and never lived somewhere longer than six years. She said she enjoys moving around and when she met David Word, she said she loved that he wanted to serve his country. 

“I would be lying if I said that I loved it all 100% of the time,” Elisabeth Word said. “Like its hard … he does a really good job of making sure that we feel loved and important and so we make the most of the time we have together.”

David Word said he was away from home for two months this past summer. “The hardest part was knowing that Elisabeth was here with Maggie like, taking care of her by herself and I feel like that is definitely the part that gives me the most fear or anxiety … But ultimately I’d say we’re excited,” he said.

Growing up, David Word said he wasn’t sure which branch of the military he wanted to be a part of, but when he joined the ROTC, he was offered a full-ride scholarship in the army. Once Word joined, he said he felt happy with that path. 

Within the Army ROTC program at BYU, David Word said there are a few groups including Cannon Crew, Color Guard and Ranger Challenge. David Word said he participated on the Cannon Crew all last year, which is the team that does pushups at the football games.

David Word said he joined the Ranger Challenge team when he started in ROTC and participated in the competitions. The Ranger Challenge is a military skills competition that tests anything related to land navigation, shooting, performing battlefield first-aid, throwing grenades and all other army skills, according to David Word. 

“Everybody watches college football, but nobody knows anything about this. But like, we’re competing on the world stage and we’re beating teams that are insanely good …  I’m just like super proud of my team,” he said.

The first time David Word competed, the BYU ROTC team placed 10th overall, he said. Last year the team placed 2nd place out of all ROTC teams and placed as the 5th team overall, he said. 

David Word said the competition varies each time. As the captain of the team this year, the biggest thing he does is plan. He said he anticipates what they might be tested on and ensures his team maximizes their time and train effectively so that no matter what they are tested on they can be successful.

BYU’s ROTC team has already competed at the Task Force and Brigade levels this year and placed first in both competitions, David Word said. The team will continue on to compete in the international army competition, Sandhurst, which is held at West Point in New York this April.

Jameson Welch, a member of BYU’s ROTC, said he was training for Ranger Challenge before he had to undergo knee surgery. Welch said Ranger Challenge requires a lot more recovery because it is such a physically demanding challenge. This year, Welch volunteered to help grade the Army Combat Fitness Test for members trying out for the Ranger Challenge team. 

Out of the 17 people who tried out for the team, 11 will compete, according to David Word. 

“I’m just super proud of my team this year. Everything is going well. And I’m just really looking forward to dominating this year,” he said.

The team competing in Sandhurst this year will be David Word, Brett Andersen, Brigham Collins, Mahala Pearson, Christoff Webber, Aidan Fryar, Zachariah Chapman, Peter Taylor, Alexis Ellett, Cameron Brimhall and Aaron Clay.

David Word said about the Sandhurst competition, “For me, this is like my culminating college experience … I want to go and just destroy this competition. I taste blood in the water, like I am ready to go and crush it.” 

The winning ROTC team at Sandhurst last year did not qualify to compete this year, so according to Word, his team is in the seat to win.

“I want everybody to … be rooting us on when we go in April and just compete against these teams who are just insanely good … we’re insanely good too,” David Word said.

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