Pittsburg State University’s ROTC Gorilla Battalion commissioned 17 cadets into the United States Army as second lieutenants Friday morning.
The cadets were sworn into the Army during a ceremony at the university’s Veterans Memorial Amphitheater. They were given the shoulder bars that indicate their new rank and branch of the army — i.e., infantry, artillery, armor, etc. — and received their symbolic first salute. Soon after graduation, they will attend the Basic Officer’s Leadership Course (BOLC) before being stationed at their first official posts, some as far away as Hawaii.
After chaplain Jonathan Johnson gave the invocation, military science professor and department chair Lt. Col. Chris Lambert told the cadets that the ceremony marked the end of a successful career at PSU and the beginning of a new set of challenges. Lambert then introduced the keynote speaker, retired Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood, a Distinguished Military Graduate of PSU who was commissioned as a field artillery officer in 1975.
Hood’s 37 year career is marked with achievements. He is a graduate of the Basic Airborne School and Jumpmaster Course, and is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Naval War College. He served many years with the 82nd Airborne Division, and has served as Commander, Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Cuba; Commanding General, 1st Army, Div. East, Fort Meade, Md.; Chief of Staff, U.S. Central Command; and most recently as International Security Forces Commander’s Liaison to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He is also the recipient of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Master Parachutist Medal, among others. He retired in February.
Hood greeted the cadets and guests, and said he was honored to be invited to return to Pittsburg. In order to keep his remarks brief, Hood said, he had met with the cadets earlier to tell them to talk about topics that were important to them. Friday’s ceremony was, after all, not an occasion for speeches, but rather for the cadets and their families to celebrate their achievements.
“This is an important day for these young men and women and their families,” Hood said.
The most important thing for the cadets to remember, Hood continued, was the oath they were about to take. The military oath of office is a Constitutional requirement and is steeped in tradition since its establishment during the Revolutionary War, he said.
“The wording has changed a bit, but the foundation has stood the test of time,” Hood said. “It has proven to be a foundation for leadership decisions and guidance. It is a declaration of your intent to serve the people of the nation.”
Hood then addressed the guests and told them they deserved to look at their sons and daughters, spouses and fiancés, with pride.
Page 2 of 3 - “You are enormously and rightfully proud of these soldiers,” he said. “You will be a major part of their military lives and their futures.”
After Hood’s address, each of the cadets were sworn in by an officer, many of whom were friends or parents, and were given their shoulder bars, which also were attached by fiancés, spouses, parents and grandparents. Then, following Army tradition, they saluted a sergeant and gave that sergeant a silver dollar as a token of their first salute.
Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Abraham Beyene, of Kansas City, Mo., said he would attend BOLC at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri before being posted to Fort Riley as an engineer. He said he worked hard over the past four years and was excited to begin his career.
“It feels like a great accomplishment,” Beyene said. “It’s the biggest accomplishment of my life.”
Second Lt. Callie Wheeler, of Olathe, received her bars from her father, Col. Howard Wheeler, and mother, Karen Hicks. She received her first salute from her grandfather, retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Karl Nelson.
Wheeler said she was looking forward to attending BOLC at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, and to becoming a medical evacuation pilot.
“I’ve been working for this every single day for four years,” said Wheeler, who will enter the Army Medical Services. “I get to help people every day I’m on the job, no matter what I’m doing. There aren’t many professions where you get to do that.”
Wheeler’s father said he felt a strong swelling of pride knowing his daughter was following in his footsteps.
“You look around the military and you see a lot of families with multiple generations who have served,” Wheeler said. “I couldn’t be more proud. She’s achieved a lot in her life, and I’m certain she’s going to achieve a lot more.”
Wheeler’s grandfather, who gave her her first salute, said he felt overwhelmed.
“It’s all I can do keep from crying,” Nelson said, beaming. “She’s so beautiful, perfect. I’m very, very proud.”
Cadet Rachel Patrick was unable to attend the ceremony.
The new second lieutenants are:
• Jared Baier — Infantry
• Abraham Beyene — Engineers
• Shannon Dunkle — Quartermaster
• Shawn Fitch — Infantry
• Chris Fite — Military Intelligence
• Amanda Floyd — Nurse
• Kole Giles — Adjutant General
• Eric Harden — Filed Artillery
• Mike McGill — Signal Corps
• Lucian Myers — Engineers
• Orey Parks — Field Artillery
• Rachel Patrick* — Nurse
• Christopher Powers — Transportation
• Nicholas Purtle — Engineers
• Harold Rivard — Infantry
• Andrew Thomas — Armor
Page 3 of 3 - • Jesse West — Infantry
• Callie Wheeler — Medical Services
* Not in attendance