The commissioning of 28 JSU ROTC cadets to second lieutenant in the 2017 fiscal year is the largest class in more than two decades, and 13 will earn such distinction during Jackson State University’s College of Liberal Arts spring bar pinning ceremony at noon Thursday, April 27, in Ballroom A of the Student Center on the main campus.
The free, public event coincides with the 50th anniversary of JSU’s Tiger Battalion, which commissioned two from Mississippi Valley State University; one from JSU; and one from Mississippi College in fall 2016.
Also, from JSU, one will commission this summer and 15 others in December.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Twitty, commanding general of the First Army, will give the keynote address, and liberal arts dean Dr. Mario Azevedo will announce the cadets completing graduation requirements.
Cadets graduating and commissioning this April are: Deunta Collins, Devonte Grant, Joi Harris, Ja’Tarrious Jenkins, Corey Jones, Ezra Jones, Landon Jordan, Kyle Lampley, Timothy Mathews, Diamond McCray, Sapphire McCray, Caleb Martin and Kelli Puckett. The cadets’ family members will take part in the traditional bar pinning ceremony.
Entering the Army as an officer is a great honor but comes with tremendous responsibility. Graduates will soon be tasked with very significant leadership and managerial responsibilities. Most importantly, they will have the sacred responsibility to lead America’s sons and daughters.
Immediately before walking across the stage at their respective school’s commencement exercises, cadets are joined by family, mentors and friends at the traditional military ceremony, during which they will take oath of office and render a first salute. These cadets will make the transition from student and ROTC cadet to U.S. army officer within days. Following the ceremony, newly commissioned officers from JSU’s Army ROTC program will disperse throughout the U.S. and abroad, joining the ranks of Tiger Battalion graduates serving their country.
“This has been a great year for the Tiger Battalion. We had our first-ever Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and now we will commission one of the largest classes since 1990,” said Lt. Col. Dexter “Dex” M. Brookins, department chair and professor of Military Science and Leadership of the JSU Army ROTC. “These officers have worked so hard to make this a premier program; each and every one of them lives their life through the Army values.”
The JSU Army ROTC program began in 1967, with the inaugural class of second lieutenants commissioning in 1970. This academic year, there are 103 cadets active in the program, with the number of officers produced annually averaging around 15.
For these students, accepting an officer’s commission is the final step in their four-year training regimen and the beginning of a promising new career. During Army ROTC training, cadets are required to attend physical training sessions, weekly leadership classes and labs. All leadership classes prepare them for active duty, National Guard, Reserves, and even the civilian work force. In addition, cadets must pass basic camp and a 28-day advanced camp in Fort Knox, Ky., in the blistering summer.
“I think I am well prepared to start my career as a second lieutenant because ROTC taught me how to work with other people and adjust to different leadership styles to accomplish the mission at hand,” said Cadet Eva Snell, who will earn her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from JSU.
Weekly training meetings teach cadets how to stand up in front of leaders and peers and present information coherently and confidently. For many cadets, the rigorous training has pushed them to expand their notions of what is possible.
“ROTC gave me the opportunity to learn how to balance my everyday life with my military responsibilities,” said Cadet Kelli Puckett, who is graduating from Tougaloo College and preparing to go to flight school to become an Army aviation officer.
Cadet Tim Mathews said he believes the daily training builds character, in that “physical training helped me keep a consistent workout routine and disciplined schedule.” Mathews is one of the Tiger Battalion’s success stories; he lost 100 pounds during his time in ROTC and is competing in a bodybuilding competition in a couple of months. He also said, “There’s not much time to goof off and not study when you wake up at 5 a.m. every morning.”
The Tiger Battalion has been busy this year – completing two field training exercises, training the Ranger Challenge team for the state competition, hosting two formal events, and briefing three senior non-commissioned officers and officers during VIP visits. The cadets also hosted a memorial run in honor of Brookins’ sister, Ciera Brookins, during which the battalion helped raise more than $500 for the Lupus Foundation.
Army ROTC graduates will represent their schools in a variety of Army and civilian careers. Six students from this class, who represent a 100 percent selection rate of those competing, were chosen for active duty through a highly competitive selection process. Cadets Sapphire McCray, Diamond McCray and JaTarrious Jenkins all assessed in the Signal Corps (Communications) branch. Two cadets received combat arms branches; Cadet Landon Jordon received Infantry; and Cadet Ezra Jones received Armor.
Some graduates have chosen to serve in the National Guard and Army Reserves, with promising careers lined up. The Dallas Police Department, Walmart and many other top companies have offered these future officers job opportunities.