Eighteen cadets were commissioned as second lieutenants during a ceremony inside the Jackson State University Student Center hosted by the College of Liberal Arts on May 2. Lt. Gen. Aundre F. Piggee, deputy chief of Staff, G-4, United States Army, served as keynote.
Celebrating the officers for joining what he described as one of the most respected professions in the world, Piggee said leadership is the “special sauce” that separates the American soldier from other occupations.
But an essential characteristic of leadership is trust, said the Arkansas native quoting his mentor, Gen. Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Secretary of State. He told the cadets that their challenge would be to gain the trust of the young men and women that the military has entrusted to their leadership.
“Gen. Powell stated that good leaders create conditions of trust in their organization. As a lieutenant, he said he learned from a sergeant in infantry school that no matter how cold it was you never would appear that you were cold,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how hungry you get in front of your soldiers; you would never appear to be hungry. No matter how scared you get (and you will be scared at some of the tasks we’re going to give you), you never let the soldiers that you lead know that you are scared because you are the example.
As deputy chief of staff, Piggee appears to know a thing or two about being an example. He oversees policies and procedures used by all Army logisticians throughout the world. He has also covered a multitude of assignments including director of logistics and engineering, U.S. central, commanding general 21st Theater Sustainment Command and executive officer to the vice chief of staff, U.S. Army, the Pentagon.
Before issuing the oath of office, the general informed the cadets that no one wins a war alone. “The Army and what we do is a team effort. By saying your name and reciting that oath, you are signing up to be a key part of our special team,” he said.
Piggee then asked the cadets to remember that life is all about the journey and not a destination.
“You’re going to have bumps and bruises. You’re going to have ups and downs. You’re going to have challenges. But those challenges define who we are and make us the officers we become. So, I challenge you to learn from those challenges and, most of all, enjoy your journey,” he commanded.
Referring to noted JSU alum Walter Payton, Piggee said the former Chicago Bears running back described what it meant to be a winner. “And he said, and I quote, that ‘a winner is somebody who has given his best effort, who has tried their hardest as they possibly can to utilize every ounce of energy and strength within them to accomplish something. It doesn’t mean they accomplished it or that they failed. It means that they’ve given their best. That’s a winner.’”
The keynote said the army needs winners like Payton described. He then commended the cadets for their champion actions like getting a degree “from one of the greatest institutions represented here,” and waking up doing “PT,” serving their community, mentoring school children; volunteering at the food bank, at the zoo, at the museum, and student government. “It tells me you all are winners today,” he said.
While he called this generation much more informed and connected than previous generations, due to technological advancements, Piggee said the following necessities have not changed:
• Competence: Strive for perfection. No soldier should be satisfied where he or she finds themselves.
• Commitment: Anything in life that’s worth doing is worth doing 100 percent. Always give your best effort. Never be afraid of hard work, putting in the extra time, reading on your own or finding the job that makes you uncomfortable.
• Character: A leader needs to possess a sterling character.
“People who make mistakes, if they’re trying to do something new or trying to make things better, I will underwrite those mistakes as long as they’re not illegal, unethical, immoral or unsafe…But, for me, of these three values, character is most important,” he said.
The general encouraged the new officers to remember the golden rule: “Always treat others with dignity and respect – the way you expect to be treated.”
Newly minted 2nd Lt., Conelous Stiff said he loved being a cadet at Jackson State University. He then credited Lt. Col. Dexter M. Brookins, department chair & professor of military science, for leading their battalion the right way.
“He showed a lot of tough love. Overall, it was a great experience. I’m really proud of my fellow second lieutenants. We stayed on each other,” said the Yazoo City native, who graduated with honors and a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering on May 4.
This will be the last commissioning for Brookins who is set to retire this year. His advice to the 18 graduates is: “Do your job; show up early; do what your boss says to do, and take care of folks.”
The commissioned second lieutenants are:
- Melvin Williams, Jr., Bachelor of Science, biology
- Conelous Stiff, Bachelor of Science, civil engineering
- April M. Bennett, Master of Social Work
- Marquise D. Robinson, Bachelor of Arts, criminal justice
- Lacurtis J. Powell, Bachelor of Arts, criminal justice
- Allison D. Bradley, Bachelor of Business Administration
- Oprah L. Braziel, Bachelor of Business Administration (Mississippi College)
- Chukwuma A. Onijiogu, Master of Science, biology (Mississippi College)
- Dentarious T. Montgomery, Bachelor of Science, Biology
- John P. Burke, Bachelor of Science, kinesiology (Mississippi College)
- Levi S. Camden, Bachelor of Arts, history (Mississippi College)
- Melissa C. McDowell, Bachelor of Science, biology
- Keyerra L. Jordan, Bachelor of Business Administration, accounting (Millsaps College)
- Hunter W. Dye, Bachelor of Science, social justice and criminology (Mississippi College)
- John B. Endris, Bachelor of Science, nursing (Mississippi College)
- James A. Jefferson, Bachelor of Arts, graphic design
- Darrian B. Jackson, Bachelor of Science, physics
- Justin L. Forest, Bachelor of Science, healthcare administration