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Sherri Tombarge
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Rain Drives Pin-Ons Indoors as More than 140 Commission

FullTextImage/img/@altCommissioning officers line the stage as VMI superintendent Gen. J.H. Peay III '62 addresses cadets preparing to take the oath. -- VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.

Four years of hard work and dedication culminated this morning in Cameron Hall for more than 140 members of the Class of 2014 as they took their oaths to commission as officers in the U. S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force.

Flag officers representing each branch spoke to the commissioning classes, offering their reflections about the significance of the day.

Speaking from the U.S. Army was Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. This year’s Army ROTC commissioning class is one of the largest in the country, with 76 taking the oath at today’s ceremony.

Due to rainy weather, pin-on ceremonies were held in Cameron Hall for the newly commissioned Navy, Marine, and Air Force officers, while the Army ceremony was held in Marshall Hall.

“Today these men and women of character set forth into a purposeful life of tough but worthy challenges, exciting opportunities, and noble service — we salute them all,” Johnson told the audience, which included family, friends, professors, and cadets.

For 2nd Lt. Jon Mattingly, commissioning in the Army allows him to continue a family tradition of service.

“Receiving a commission is not just an individual accomplishment, but something to be celebrated collectively,” he said. “I am eternally grateful to [my family] for all they have done, and all they will do, in support of my dreams.”

Commissioning in the Army marks the fulfillment of a dream 2nd Lt. Cameron Gulczynski has had since he was 11 years old.

“Commissioning day is not just to recognize me as an officer, but more importantly recognizing my family -- especially my parents and sister -- and friends who have supported me through VMI and will continue to support me through my Army career,” he said.

“Contracting with the Army has given me a sense of purpose, great goals, and amazing opportunities that I would otherwise have never gotten,” said 2nd Lt. Heather Haag, who will be entering the Army Medical Service Corps.

Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of the U. S. Southern Command, challenged the 20 commissioning candidates set to take their place in the Marine Corps.

“If you think you are good enough to be a leader and officer in the Marines, if you are willing to dedicate your lives to taking care of what I think are the most precious tributes this country produces – enlisted Marines - … stand up,” he said.

Without hesitation, the new Marines resolutely answered Kelly’s call, standing up and taking their oaths with strong voices.

In preparation for a career as a Marine officer, 2nd Lt. Joey Bishop came to VMI to develop his leadership skills. Having served this year as regimental commander, he did just that.

“I am now a Marine officer, trained in the best military school in the country, and have the opportunity to lead America’s finest young men and women,” he said. “I am extremely humbled by this opportunity and also very excited.”

Making a return to post to address the 31 commissioning in the U. S. Navy was Rear Adm. Matthew J. Carter ’85, commander of the Navy Patrol and Reconnaissance Group/Patrol and Reconnaissance Group Pacific.

“Although you may not realize it yet, VMI has given you a solid foundation to be the citizen-soldier which is so valued in our society,” he said.

He urged the candidates to hold fast to the Navy’s values of honor, courage, and commitment.

“I promise that as leaders, your service core values and those that VMI has instilled in each one of you will allow you to persevere in the face of great challenges.”

Ensign Nathan Couteret’s path to commissioning as a U. S. Navy officer was influenced by both of his grandfathers and his father, all of whom were in the military.

“My journey has just started, and I am very excited to represent VMI in the fleet as an ensign in the greatest navy in the world, the United States Navy.”

Speaking to the audience from the U. S. Air Force was Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, assistant chief of staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration.

“What you have in front of you is an incredible life filled with your devotion to duty to our great nation,” he said.

Harencak left the 17 commissioning in the U. S. Air Force, as well as the other branches, with words from Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“‘You should do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do any less’ – and that is what today is all about,” he concluded.

2nd Lt. Paul Cicero, who will be serving in the Air Force’s Space Operations division, served as commander of the Cadet Wing this semester.

“The hours of work and sweat we all put into ROTC has all built up to this point,” he said. “It's a large step in that we are changing from the status of a cadet to that of a commissioned officer in the United States military.”

 --Daniel Stinnett ’07

-VMI-