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Building leaders: BYU ROTC grads rank high nationally

By Braley Dodson daily Herald - | Mar 17, 2016
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Rebekah Lee lays down with an M16 as part of a training exercise with the BYU ROTC on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Lt. Colonel Chanda Mofu, middle, looks over shooting results with the BYU ROTC on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets train with live M16 rifles on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets train with live M16 rifles on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets train with live M16 rifles on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Lt. Colonel Chanda Mofu looks over shooting results with the BYU ROTC on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets train with live M16 rifles on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets look at their shooting results on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets train with live M16 rifles on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Lt. Colonel Chanda Mofu looks over shooting results with the BYU ROTC on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets train with live M16 rifles on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets train with live M16 rifles on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Lt. Colonel Chanda Mofu helps load ammunition into rifle clips with the BYU ROTC on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets train with live M16 rifles on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets load ammunition into rifle clips on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets train with M16 rifles on Thursday, March 17, 2016 at the Provo Gun Club in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Lt. Colonel Chanda Mofu looks over shooting results with the BYU ROTC on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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BYU ROTC cadets look over shooting results with the BYU ROTC on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in Provo Canyon. The BYU ROTC is the largest of its kind in the U.S. outside of a military institution. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

The following is the fourth in a series of articles on student veterans, and the unique challenges they face, on local college campuses. The series will appear weekly through March 27.

Amy Cloud was sitting in a class at Brigham Young University when classmates mentioned that the United States government should use American troops to train ground troops in Syria and Iraq to fight ISIS.

It was a plan, she realized, that sounded just like Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I raised my hand and said the problem is we’ve already done that and it didn’t work,” Cloud said.

The class then asked how she knew that.

“I said, I’m in ROTC. This is stuff we talk about, what we’re doing, and as the future leaders in the Army, we are going to have to know that to make good decisions,” she said.

Cloud is one of 204 cadets in BYU’s Army ROTC program, the largest such program in the nation outside of a military institution. About 50 percent of the program’s graduates rank in the top 20 percent of graduating cadets nationwide.

The program received the Geronimo Award in January, naming it as the best large-level program in the region. The award is given annually to a program within the seven-state region.

“People think of BYU and they are surprised, but this is a national draw,” said Lt. Col. Chanda Mofu, a professor of military science at BYU.

Many of the cadets return from missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaking strategic languages and with the ability to organize and understand responsibility. The church’s historic participation in the Boy Scouts of America leaves many cadets with valuable skills, and many of them are married with children.

“It makes for a person who is a lot more well-rounded than their counterparts across the country,” Mofu said.

The 204 cadets don’t all attend BYU. Some attend other institutions but still fall under the umbrella of the BYU program.

The large enrollment means the program can hold weekly three-hour long labs where students are placed in tactical scenarios and armed with paintball guns. Students receive intelligence, create a plan and then execute it.

After the lab, the group discusses if it was able to lead based on the intelligence received, was able to adapt to changing situations and was able to communicate clearly with subordinates.

“That all boils down to leadership attributes that are measurable and lead to effective leaders,” Mofu said.

Thursday’s lab had the cadets assembling and disassembling weapons, learning what to do if their gun jams and firing M16 assault rifles. Other labs require that they trudge through two feet of snow to complete a mission.

But while getting hit with a paintball might be discouraging in a lab, it represents a bullet that in a real situation could be fatal.

“In the military and situations like that, those are real consequences,” Cloud said.

As the program’s leader, Mofu said he fights a stigma leftover from the Vietnam War, the idea that recruits are lower-class individuals without education, or that showing interest in the program means a cadet will have to spend his or her entire life in the Army. But whether students spend four years with the Army or make it their career, Mofu said it gives them valuable experience for their careers, community and families.

“While I’m in the business of making Army officers, more holistically, I am building leadership for the future of our country,” Mofu said. “You don’t always have to wear a uniform.”

About 30 percent of the cadets are part of the simultaneous membership program, which means they’re also in the National Guard. The majority of cadets come from outside Utah.

Some cadets, like Cloud, or Ellie Leder, a cadet and freshman at BYU, originally planned to join the Army first and go to school later.

But in Leder’s case, her parents explained she could do both at the same time.

“I thought, well, I can go to BYU, learn and do the Army, and that would give me a lot more options,” Leder said.

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