Oct 27, 2009

ROTC student ranked 8th in the nation

by Emily Defosse

While many students spend their college years aimlessly drifting from class to class hoping to find direction in life, senior Alexander Woody trained and prepared for his future in the military with focus and determination that earned him national recognition.

Woody ranked eighth out of the 4,702 senior Army ROTC cadets in the in the nation this year.

“(ROTC) trains students to be officers. If they are successful, they are all officers the day before they graduate,” retired Major Robert Foy, director of Liberty’s ROTC program, said. “So what the army does in between their junior and senior year (is) they rank all of (the cadets).”

The Army ranks ROTC cadets to reward excellence and make sure the right people are placed in the right jobs, according to Foy.

“There are a bunch of things they look at,” Foy said. “The most important thing to look at is grade point average (GPA). Alexander Woody has a 3.96 and has been on the dean’s list every semester.”

The Army also looks at physical training (PT) scores. According to Foy, the PT test consists of two minutes of pushups, two minutes of sit-ups and a two-mile run.

Woody earned a score of 344.

“A 344 equates to 89 pushups, 100 sit-ups and a 12.34 (minute) two mile run,” Foy said. “Pretty good numbers.”

Woody and the rest of the ROTC senior class spent a month at an evaluation camp in Fort Lewis, Wash. At this camp Woody lead a group of 50 other cadets, mostly strangers.

“When you’re top man on the rank, or boss in any position, that’s challenging,” Foy said.

ROTC senior class instructor Captain Michael Donahue has known Woody since his junior year.

“He is in charge of (about) 120 or 130 (cadets) overall,” Donahue said. “(He is) responsible for the training and exercises we do here … (At) UVA (last weekend) for three straight days consisting of land navigation competition courses, he was responsible … for 170 people. A lot of responsibility (was) put on his plate.”

Woody takes the challenges and responsibility with grace and humility.

“It’s a bit shocking because you don’t expect to be in a position like that, it’s a privilege. It’s a lot of fun,” Woody said. “I get to meet people that I never would have met before, and influence people that I would never be able to influence if I was just floating along in my college career.”

“With the rest of the freshmen, sophomores and juniors, it is a lot of getting to know people and pour into their lives and the fact that I get to move them along and push them through what I’ve been through,” Woody said.

After God and family, Woody’s biggest inspiration comes from his ROTC classmates and cadre.

“(The ROTC instructors’) knowledge and wisdom inspires me to do well and let them see that they are actually making an influence on the guys they are teaching at Liberty.”

Woody decided to join ROTC his senior year of high school.

“I wanted to go the military route, be an officer,” Woody said. “And also the scholarship for school was a big incentive. (I was) able to come to a place like Liberty, (which) I wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise.”

While many may find ROTC intimidating, Woody describes it as “not too bad.” He explained that it forced him to learn discipline, like waking up early, before he would have learned such disciplines otherwise.

“ROTC in and of itself is not too crazy hard. It’s a lot of stuff that you just normally wouldn’t do so it does take some extra discipline.”

Woody is also a three-time participant in the Ranger Challenge.

“That’s our varsity sport and we compete with schools in North Carolina and Virginia principally. We’ve done pretty well and much of that is because of his efforts,” Foy said.

According to Woody, the Ranger Challenge includes a PT test, written land navigation, night navigation, basic rifle marksmanship, a hand grenade assault course, a ruck march, a 10k run and similar events.

Woody also attended airborne and air assault courses, where he was certified to jump out of planes and repel out of helicopters.

“(It is) pretty rare for a cadet to do both of those,” Foy said.

What stands out most about Woody is not his military excellence but his commitment to Christ and serving people. In addition to school and ROTC, Woody is a spiritual life director (SLD) on Dorm 26-1 under Resident Assistants Ray Fuentes and Chris Deaton.

“(Woody) works hard, with a ridiculous amount of energy, and tries to be intentional with guys he influences,” Fuentes said.

Woody does not believe ministry ends with his hall or with his time at Liberty. He hopes to use his military training, biblical studies degree and future seminary degree to become an Army chaplain and influence other soldiers.

“I’m hopefully going to get an education delay from the Army and then I’ll finish seminary,” Woody said.

After seminary he hopes to gain pastoral experience before going into active duty as an Army chaplain, fully knowing that he is likely to be deployed.

“I expect to be deployed. That’s not anything anyone really wants or wishes to do. It’s not the most joyful of things, but I do understand there is a need,” Woody said. “A lot of guys over there definitely need chaplains for spiritual guidance. It’s a huge mission field. In that sense I have a God-given desire to be with them … and allow God to use me to hopefully pour into their lives and allow them to grow while they are over there.”

Woody is not waiting until he is a chaplain to make a difference in people’s lives. He is already influencing many people.

“I challenged him that hopefully by the time he graduates I’ll be as physically fit as him,” Donahue said. “He is an inspiration for me being (at) that high caliber of physical fitness … If someone has talents, despite their age, their sex or their rank, they can be a good example for others. So even though I am his teacher I want to know what he is doing in the gym, or outside the gym to inspire me.”

Deaton noted Woody’s passion for serving prayer leaders as an SLD, and described him as a man who devotes himself to everything he does.

Major Foy believes he is “mature beyond his years.”

Woody’s accomplishments and hard work have helped him get to the point where he can reach his career goals. It has also helped bring national recognition to Liberty’s ROTC program.

“Hopefully God can use this to get His name and what He is doing here at Liberty spoken of in circles where it is not usually talked about. That’s the most awesome thing that can come out of this,” Woody said.

Contact Emily DeFosse at ebdefosse@liberty.edu.

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