Jonna Reinhardt ’07, M.B.A. ’20 took an unconventional route from William & Mary graduate to commissioned military officer.
He did not participate in ROTC as an undergrad and chose to enlist almost 12 years ago to be a part of the Army’s Special Operations. After 10 years as an Army Ranger, he returned to W&M to earn his M.B.A.
Since his return, Reinhardt has been an active participant in the ROTC program and is a role model to many of the other cadets.
He was commissioned Friday in a private, virtual ceremony along with cadets Patrick Choi ’20, Ryan Fameli ’20, Luis Figueroa ’20 and Mark O’Donahue ’20.
The cadets were joined by family members during the pinning ceremony, which was done via videoconferencing platform Zoom. Reinhardt was pinned by his wife, Madeline Reinhardt.
“This is a pretty big change in my career, and I’m just immensely thankful that things have worked out to allow this to happen,” said Reinhardt, who will begin as a second lieutenant in the Army Transportation Corps.
The commissioning ceremony capped off a banner year for the armed forces at William & Mary. Its ROTC program made school history by finishing second at the 2019 All-American Brigade Ranger Challenge. The university also opened a new Office of Student Veteran Engagement, led by Charlie Foster.
“I would say the first year of the OSVE has been outstanding,” said Foster, who has remained active in his role via Zoom meetings and regular emails. “It has been an honor to stand at the intersection of the Tribe and the military community.
“I have met hundreds of people in my official capacity, and each one has helped me celebrate veterans and also taught me about the university. That’s the way I think about the year — one of celebrating military and veteran students, and a year of learning.”
Reinhardt was a member of the W&M team that placed second out of 48 teams in the Ranger Challenge and earned a spot in the prestigious Sandhurst Military Skills Competition, which was scheduled to take place in April at West Point but was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“The team was pretty bummed to miss the Sandhurst competition, especially with it being the first time the ROTC program has ever qualified for it,” Reinhardt said.
Reinhardt did seven tours of duty in Afghanistan during his decade-long tenure with the Army Rangers. After serving on the front lines, he selected a different path for his final 10 years of military service.
He will be stationed at Fort Eustis in nearby Newport News.
“I’m going to spend the next 10 years doing something a little less strenuous, a little less scary for my wife,” said Reinhardt, who reached the rank of sergeant first class as a non-commissioned officer. “And when I get out of the military, not only will I have an M.B.A. but I will have 10 years of logistical experience with the Army doing things at a pretty big level.”
Reinhardt, who grew up in Jamestown, ran track and cross country at W&M and graduated with a degree in marketing. He tried an office job for a year, and then followed the urge to join the Army, eventually earning his way onto one of the Army’s three Ranger battalions.
“As an officer, you can only spend a couple years at a time in the Special Operations community,” Reinhardt said. “Enlisted, you can stay there indefinitely as long as you don't screw up.”
Reinhardt spent a decade at the 1st Ranger Battalion at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia.
“I learned a lot and was able to experience some really neat things,” Reinhardt said. “It was exactly what I wanted out of my military career.”
Reinhardt earned his way back to W&M through the Army’s Green to Gold Active Duty Option Program, a scholarship program that allowed him to focus completely on academics while still serving his country.
Reinhardt and Figueroa are the first two Green to Gold students to come through William & Mary, according to Lt. Col. Dustin A. Menhart, chair of W&M’s Military Science program.
“Jonna is in a league of his own,” Menhart said. “He’s been just a true professional in being available for these young men and women. It’s almost like having an additional cadre member because of his unique experiences and background.”
“We’re always trying to recruit some Green to Golds, because he and Luis Figueroa were the first two Green to Golds that we had, and they have been exceptional,” Menhart continued.
Reinhardt said joining W&M’s ROTC program with his prior service experience was unusual at first, but everyone around him learned quickly that he was willing to work hard to earn the respect of leadership and the other cadets.
“I’m the same rank as most of the cadre here,” Reinhardt said. “I’ve got about the same amount of time and service as they do, but effectively I’m a cadet. That was the mindset I went in with. I didn’t wear any of my combat patches or any of that stuff.”
As Reinhardt earned more respect from leadership and cadets, he fell back on his expertise to provide as much support as possible.
“It definitely was a bit of a strange situation at first, but Jonna was really great at integrating himself with the other cadets in the program, and he helped serve as a mentor to a lot of the members of the (Ranger Challenge) team,” said Fameli, who was a co-captain of the squad.
As Reinhardt approaches the final chapter of his time at William & Mary, he looks back fondly at the university’s impact on his journey through the military ranks.
“It is a special university,” Reinhardt said. “It’s impossible to quantify the full effects of going to William & Mary on my career, but they have been significant.”