WASHINGTON – Early Wednesday morning, Howard University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program honored nine Army cadets and 11 Air Force cadets in the first ROTC Joint Commissioning Address in Cramton Auditorium.
The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) is a college program that is offered at more than 1,700 colleges and universities across the United States to prepare young adults to become officers in the U.S. military. In exchange for a paid college education and a guaranteed post-college career, cadets pledge to serve in the military after graduation.
Previously, Howard’s Air Force ROTC program and Army ROTC program honored their cadets in separate ceremonies. This year, staff, cadets and virtual guests gathered to share in excitement and pride as all cadets transitioned from officer trainees to commissioned officers together. As the first of 10 commencement ceremonies this week, the occasion was livestreamed on the Howard University commencement website.
President Wayne A. I. Fredrick ignited the event with a salute to the cadets for accepting the challenge to strengthen their skills, perseverance, knowledge and character during this past year of uncertainty. He spotlighted the efforts of the University founder, Oliver Otis Howard, a U.S. Union officer in the American Civil War who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1854. The creation of Air Force ROTC in 1917 at Howard University, which was created with his leadership in the military in mind, built a legacy that lives on today by encouraging cadets to serve.
“In ROTC at Howard University, the importance of leadership is made explicit and is given paramount prominence,” said Frederick. “Your motto is ‘Leadership, Truth and Service.’ While there are many different ways to lead, leadership for all of you is an expectation and an obligation. Our world is in desperate need of your leadership.”
The ROTC commissioning ceremony was an occasion full of groundbreaking firsts. Howard University welcomed the keynote speaker, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, and his wife, Hollyanne, to campus for the first time.
Gen. Milley, the 20th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the nation’s highest-ranking military officer and the principal military adviser to the president, secretary of defense and National Security Council.
“It’s an extraordinary class, and I am extraordinarily humbled to be here to witness the future of our military,” expressed Gen. Milley. “In short, you are entering the military service at a very dynamic and important period of history, and we absolutely need your innovation, your leadership and your competence - most importantly, your character.”
Lt. Col. Creyonta West and Lt. Col. Redahlia Person hold the honor of guiding these trainees through one of the most demanding and successful leadership programs in the country and building better citizens for America. They are the first two African-American females to lead the ROTC program at Howard University and are both alumni of historically Black institutions.
“A man far greater than Abraham Lincoln once stated that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Gen. Otis Howard, like many others, knew the key to success would require education, discipline and a fair chance,” said Lt. Col. West. “And now 167 years later, we gather as fruit of his vision. Cadets, you represent Howard. The man and also the legacy. I challenge you to finish the dream, build upon the vision, and move forward in your own divine purpose.”
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