Graduating cadets in TCU Army and Air Force ROTC are less than a week away from walking on to a stage as college students and walking off as commissioned military officers.
The ROTC commissioning ceremonies officially mark the cadets’ transition from cadet to officer rank. Both the Army and Air Force ceremonies will be held on campus on May 8.
Lt. Col. Eddie Smith, an enrollment officer for Army ROTC, said that the Army’s commissioning ceremony will consist of a guest speaker and the swearing in of the cadets.
“[The cadets] come across, give their commissioning oath, get pinned and then get their first salute,” Smith said. “Usually it is their best friend, a family member or even a fiancé that will give them their pin. They say thank you to everyone and then they’re off.”
The commissioning ceremonies are often compared to a graduation ceremony by cadre and cadets alike.
“It’s really similar to the graduation ceremony, but it’s just a lot smaller and a lot more personal,” said Air Force ROTC Cadet Derrick Johnson, a senior criminal justice major.
Air Force ROTC will commission 10 cadets, whereas Army ROTC will commission eight.
Upon being commissioned, both Army and Air Force cadets are sent to different bases for their respective training. Smith said that for the Army, the newly commissioned officers will attend Basic Officer Leader Corp.
“Depending on which branch of the Army they get, they’ll go to a specific one for that branch,” Smith said. “That’ll be from four weeks to three months and they get their specific training and their specific job. From there they go on to their stations wherever they may be.”
Smith said different Army branches include infantry, finance and aviation.
Excitement about the future
Army and Air Force cadets expressed excitement about the road that lies ahead of them upon being commissioned.
Johnson, who plans on being an intelligence officer in the Air Force, said that the uncertainty of where he may be headed adds to the excitement.
“I won’t know where I’m stationed until I’ve completed training this summer,” Johnson said. “I have to go to military intelligence training in San Angelo. After that it all depends.”
Johnson said that intelligence was appealing to him because of the magnitude that it has in the results of operations.
“I want to do something that I can directly affect the outcome of how our country is kept safe,” Johnson said. “Instead of supporting those doing the mission, I want to give them the correct intelligence.”
The desire to help others has inspired many cadets to enroll in the military, including Army Cadet Hannah Rector. Rector, a senior nursing major, wants to pursue being a nurse in the Army.
“As long as I can take care of others I’ll be happy,” Rector said.
Rector added that her family’s military background has also influenced her to enter the armed forces.
“I come from a long line,” Rector said. “I’m from a sixth generation military family.”
The end of a chapter
Several of the cadets were still in shock that their time in the ROTC programs is nearly up.
“It’s exciting. It hasn’t hit me yet, but when it does it will be great. I’ve been doing this for four years and it’ll be nice knowing that I’m finally done,” Rector said.
On the other hand, Air Force Cadet Geoffrey Adams said that it’s all starting to sink in for him.
“It’s becoming pretty real. It’s just crazy to think that after four years I’m done,” Adams said. “Where has time gone?”
Adams, a senior computer science major, plans to pursue his dream of being a pilot after he is commissioned.
“I’ve always wanted to be a pilot since I was a kid and the Air Force is the best bet of getting my license,” Adams said. “I want to serve my country and do what I can. I’m going to cyber operations at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi on June 3.”
Reflections and final thoughts
Cadets and Cadre said it has been neat seeing everyone grow and build their character during their time in ROTC.
Johnson, who was prior service before coming to TCU, said ROTC was a unique experience for him.
“Coming back to school after eight years in the Air Force and being 10 years older than some of my colleagues was hard enough,” Johnson said. “My experience has been humbling because I learned a lot of things about myself, like my flaws and even being able to connect with other people.”
Adams said it was inspiring to see so many cadets go from being so shy at the beginning to being leaders at the end.
“I came in with five or six guys and I would stare at them and wonder how they were ever going to lead people.” Adams said. “Now four years have passed and they’re some of the people I respect most. It’s just cool.”
Rector said that the biggest advice she could give to any cadets entering ROTC is to be fully committed to the program.
“Sometimes you have to do things like PT or sacrifice your whole weekend,” Rector said. “You don’t always want to get up at 5 a.m., but it builds discipline. If you show you care, people will back you.”
Smith said it is special for the cadre to witness the culmination of all the hard work and effort the cadets have put into the program over time.
“You come in as a freshman and you leave as adult ready to lead about 65 or 75 people, and that’s just an awesome task,” Smith said. “I’ve seen them grow from childish to awesome leaders and it’s a really good feeling to see them walk across the stage.”