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BYU administrators join Army ROTC cadets in Black Hawk helicopter ride from Provo to Camp Williams

BYU Army ROTC cadets relish the military experience

Three Black Hawk helicopters lifted off from Provo, Utah, airport the morning of Thursday, Oct. 26.

The trio of choppers carried senior leaders of Brigham Young University, including President C. Shane Reese, and a group of BYU Army ROTC cadets. The helicopters flew over the school’s Provo campus, passed by Y Mountain and continued on to Camp Williams, a flight that lasted about 30 minutes.

The Black Hawks eventually returned to the Provo airport to pick up more cadets and fly them to Camp Williams. Eighty-three cadets participated in the two-day training event designed to help enhance their soldier skills, including first aid, rifle marksmanship, night navigation and more.

The event was organized by the BYU Army ROTC in collaboration with the Utah Army National Guard.

Flying over campus and seeing Y Mountain from a different vantage point was unforgettable, said Brigitte Madrian, dean of the Marriott School of Business, where the ROTC is housed at BYU.

“That was a cool experience, but I think the real value for the university administrators is an opportunity to see the Army ROTC cadets’ enthusiasm about this, to have an opportunity to interact with them a little bit, and learn more about ROTC programs,” she said. “It was a great opportunity for people in senior leadership positions to learn more about this really important program at BYU that plays such a pivotal role in the learning experience of some of our students.”

BYU President C. Shane Reese makes the “Y” gesture while flying by Y Mountain in a Black Hawk helicopter on Oct. 26, 2023.
BYU President C. Shane Reese makes the “Y” gesture while flying by Y Mountain in a Black Hawk helicopter on Oct. 26, 2023. | Nate Edwards, BYU

Lt. Col. Travis Bailey, department chair of the school’s Department of Military Science and head of BYU’s Army ROTC, said the event was successful in helping the cadets to develop basic soldiering skills and gain confidence in their abilities.

“One of the biggest objectives is to help the cadets learn how to lead and have opportunities to lead,” Bailey said. “The ride from Provo to Camp Williams was a highlight of the exercise.”

Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Pope has experienced the helicopter flight before. He is now in his fourth year of the program, helped plan and execute the event, and said his favorite part of the activity was the rush of rappelling down a 45-meter tower. He also appreciates the feeling of camaraderie among the cadets.

“The dynamic of being in BYU Army ROTC is the brotherhood,” said Pope, who served a Latter-day Saint mission in the México México City East Mission. “I think of the 2,000 stripling warriors. That is exactly what BYU Army ROTC stands for.”

Alissa Reno, a first-year cadet who also served, in the Arkansas Bentonville Mission, said one of most memorable experiences of the exercise was carrying a 50-pound pack on a strenuous 6-mile march. She appreciated how one of her leaders looked out for her during the march.

BYU President C. Shane Reese takes in an aerial view of campus and LaVell Edwards Stadium from a Black Hawk helicopter on Oct. 26, 2023.
BYU President C. Shane Reese takes in an aerial view of campus and LaVell Edwards Stadium from a Black Hawk helicopter on Oct. 26, 2023. | Nate Edwards, BYU

“My favorite experience was feeling like I wasn’t just another cadet, but that I mattered in the program,” Reno said. “I think it’s incredible to see the leadership skills of fellow students here at BYU and the effort that they put in to help us grow our own leadership skills too.”

Cadet Max Haney, of Ithaca, New York, said the helicopter ride was definitely a highlight, but he also appreciated the opportunity to train with his fellow cadets.

“It was pretty incredible to see the professionalism and skill of those pilots doing really impressive maneuvers that showed a lot of time spent training in that cockpit,” said Haney, who recently received his mission call to serve in the Dominican Republic Santiago Mission.

“We have a great program here at BYU. Everybody had a good time and really enjoyed themselves. Everyone was always laughing. There was no swearing, and it was all clean humor. That’s not something you always see, especially in the military, but it’s something that we really espouse as part of our program here. ... I truly think we have one of the best programs in the country here.”

BYU Army ROTC cadets line up to board a Black Hawk helicopter as part of a two-day exercise at Camp Williams on Oct. 26, 2023.
BYU Army ROTC cadets line up to board a Black Hawk helicopter as part of a two-day exercise at Camp Williams, Utah, on Oct. 26, 2023. | Nate Edwards, BYU
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