Thirteen JSU ROTC Tiger Battalion cadets were commissioned Thursday to second lieutenants and must be ready to confront a vastly complex and volatile world, keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty of the First Army said.
Twitty is the 38th commander of the coordinating authority tasked with advising and assisting reserve component formations with readiness during pre- and post-mobilization training.
“Without good parents none of this would be happening today,” he said during the ceremony by JSU’s College of Liberal Arts in the Student Center ballroom.
Furthermore, he told the new officers, “You could walk out this door and go from a student to a true lieutenant,” serving in countries engaged in combat. “Your No. 1 responsibility is to fight and win our nation’s wars.”
Twitty acknowledged that oftentimes after cadets go through commissioning they usually have a “difficult time transitioning to the Army because they’re still thinking college life: fraternity, sorority, etc. It’s about ensuring you understand mission requirements to lead others because it could be a life or death decision.”
He said times were starkly different from when he sat in the same seats as the cadets.
“Then, our mission was to contain the Soviet Union. We had a relatively stable world. Fast-forward 32 years, the world is vastly complex; there is a lot of uncertainty.”
He recalls he had time to “make mistakes, understand and learn my craft. I had time to figure out what infantry life was all about. I had time to get to know my soldiers and the family of my soldiers. I had time to understand what this big Army was all about.”
He further draws a contrast between now and then.
“Today, we have 150,000 service members deployed abroad in combat or on the edge of combat. We are a nation at war.”
He reeled off a number of ongoing combative situations:
- In Europe, the U.S. is on the front edge of conflict, with Russia encroaching on Crimea and Georgia. The U.S. has troops there to protect NATO allies.
- In Iran, that nation is dealing with covert activities daily by supporting terrorists and militant groups such as Hezbollah.
- In Asia, North Korea has ambitions of becoming a nuclear power by developing a ballistic weapon for potentially striking the U.S.
- In South China, the U.S. is involved in “freedom of the seas” because China has seized many islands, thus making it difficult to navigate the South China Sea.
In Africa, the U.S. confronts terrorist groups in a climate of famine, drought and corruption.
- In the U.S., Americans also are dealing with terrorist groups and disruptions, protests and uncertainty resulting from the recent presidential election.
“You cadets don’t have time like I had,” he cautioned.
Lt. Col. Dexter Brookins, chair and professor of Military Science, reiterated the excitement shared by family, friends and newly commissioned officers.
“I look forward to seeing what they’re going to do for our nation. I’ve watched them grow for two years into the young adults they’ve become and as officers in the military. I’m happy they stuck with it and took all our guidance. I’m so proud of them.”
Brookins said he’s confident they will rise to the occasion regardless of where they’re deployed.
“When they are seniors in ROTC we talk about what they’re going to face and all the different types of combative commands, which are in different parts of the world. We do address what’s happening around the world. I tell them that leading up to commissioning in college, this is your fun time. But once you go out there it’s time to put on your big boy shorts and go make a difference.”
For JSU’s president emeritus Dr. James A. Peoples Jr., the Army commissioning ceremony marked a momentous occasion because he was an enlisted member of the U.S. Marine Corps. During that time, the corps “did not commission African-Americans, so all the officers were white.”
Even more disconcerting, he was not allowed to participate in an ROTC program in Mississippi.
Peoples said, “I want to tell you how proud I am of you on this day for you to be at this stage in your life. I commend all of you and wish you the very best.”
Peoples, as the sixth president of JSU, founded the Army ROTC at JSU 50 years ago after engaging in a two-year negotiation to host an Army ROTC unit with the Department of the Army. Ultimately, he earned a qualification in 1967 and an official declaration in December 1968.
Since then more than 700 young men and women have earned gold bars as second lieutenants, along with four general officers.
Of Peoples’ influence, Twitty said, “JSU had a leader with vision. I would not be here had it not been for individuals such as Dr. Peoples, who paved a way for us. He’s a jewel. I’m glad he’s still part of JSU’s program.”
Dr. Mario Azevedo, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, certified that each commissioning cadet met the requirements.
Following are the 13 new second lieutenants:
Deunta A. Collins of Edwards, Miss.: bachelor of science degree in therapeutic recreation in JSU’s College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation
- Kyle Lampley of Jackson, Miss.: bachelor of science degree in criminal justice in JSU’s College of Liberal Arts
- Caleb C. Martin of Laporte, Texas: bachelor of arts degree in political science in Millsaps College’s Political Science Department
- Ja’Tarrious Q.J. Jenkins of Hazlehurst, Miss.: bachelor of science degree in criminal justice in JSU’s College of Liberal Arts
- Cory Jones of Louise, Miss.: bachelor of science degree in general studies in Mississippi Valley State University’s Department of Social Sciences
- Ezra I. Jones of Woodville, Miss.: master of science degree in public health administration in JSU’s School of Public Health
- Landon L. Jordan of St. Louis, Mo.: bachelor of science degree in criminal justice in JSU’s College of Liberal Arts
- Devonte Grant of Hollandale, Miss.: bachelor of science in engineering technology in Mississippi Valley State University’s Department of Engineering Technology
- Joi M. Harris of Jackson, Miss.: bachelor of arts degree in psychology in Tougaloo College’s Department of Psychology
- Timothy O. Matthews Jr. of Cary, Miss.: bachelor of science degree in recreation administration in JSU’s College of Health, Physical Education and Recreation
- Diamond L. McCray of Magnolia, Miss.: bachelor of science degree in political science in JSU’s College of Liberal Arts
- Sapphire L. McCray of Magnolia, Miss.: bachelor of science degree in biology/pre-medicine in JSU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology
- Kelli L. Puckett of Natchez, Miss.: bachelor of science degree in history at Tougaloo College’s School of Social Science
Meanwhile, Twitty reminded the new second lieutenants that as leaders they must accomplish three things: “motivate soldiers, inspire soldiers and lead soldiers.”
He advised them to “be ready because the nation is counting on each of you. You must quickly understand your jobs.”