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From Appalachian graduates to Army officers

BOONE—The hard work and sacrifice of eight graduating Appalachian State University seniors means more than just earning a college diploma. Each has been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

View larger imageNewly commissioned second lieutenants from Appalachian State University’s ROTC program are Anthony W. Fernandez, left, William C. Forrest, Evan C. Freemyer, Matthew D. Gordon, Daniel I. Johnson, Eric G. Norvell, Marshall L. Ospina and Nathan G. Sponsel. (Photo by Jane Nicholson)

“This morning, these young men woke up as college students,” said Lt. Col. David Cox during commissioning ceremonies held May 10. Cox is chairman of the Department of Military Science and Leadership at Appalachian.

“After this ceremony they will be officers and in the near future some of them will be leading units of up to 40 soldiers, they will be signing for Army equipment worth millions of dollars, reporting to Army bases around the globe and some of them may be deployed to fight our nation’s wars.”

The new officers are Anthony W. Fernandez, a finance and banking major who has been assigned to field artillery; William C. Forrest, an exercise science major who will join the armor division; Evan C. Freemyer, a political science major who has received an educational delay to enter the Elon University School of Law; Matthew D. Gordon, a criminal justice major who will be assigned to military intelligence in the infantry branch; Daniel I. Johnson, a criminal justice major who will join the signal corps with the infantry division; Eric G. Norvell, a criminal justice major who will be assigned to military intelligence with the infantry; Marshall L. Ospina, a political science major who will join the infantry; and Nathan G. Sponsel, a building science major who will join the Army’s engineer branch.

“From this day forward, you will be known as military leaders,” said guest speaker Lt. Col. Jerry Baird Jr. “You are destined to lead great Americans, Americans who are prepared to give all that they have in service to this great nation. Leadership is a huge responsibility that after today will be bared upon your shoulders.”

Baird, who is battalion commander for the 105 Military Police Battalion in Asheville, said leadership was an art that the new officers will develop throughout their careers. “Each of you will lead differently, but how you approach the art of leadership is what will make you successful,” he said.

Baird also talked to the future military leaders about their responsibilities to their soldiers, noncommissioned officers, commanders and the families of the soldiers they will lead.

“Soldiers will expect you to be new and green, but they don’t expect you to be ignorant,” Baird said. “Have enough self-confidence to ask them to teach you. You will learn, you will gain their respect and they will love you for it.”

He said noncommissioned officers (NCOs) will either assume that the lieutenants are good and will survive as a platoon leader, or that they don’t listen, and they will let the new officers learn the hard way. “Ask for their input often. At no level will you be stronger than when your top NCOs are part of the team,” he said.

Commanders will expect the new officers to be ready for whatever responsibility they are assigned, Baird said. “Stay engaged, be a professional soldier, provide solutions and not problems,” he said. “Always set the standard.”

Families also will have high expectations of the new lieutenants. “The families will expect you to lead their loved ones with competency, integrity and respect. They will perform to your standards and follow your lead. Be a role model for your soldiers because their families will be watching you,” Baird said.

“Being an Army officer is an awesome responsibility and it is an awesome challenge,” Cox said. “I believe you can handle the responsibility and are up to the challenge. I expect each of you to uphold the oath of office, to lead by example, to always put your mission and your soldiers first and to always do the right thing.”