FORT PICKETT, Va. –
In a ceremony held Aug. 22, 2015, 17 officer candidates enrolled in Class 57 of the Virginia Army National Guard’s Officer Candidate School received their commissions in a traditional graduation ceremony held at Fort Pickett’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. The ceremony marked the end of an almost two year journey for the candidates as they took their oaths of office, received their OCS diplomas and their second lieutenant bars and received their first salute as new officers.
Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer, the Assistant Adjutant General – Army for the Virginia National Guard, served as the guest speaker at the event.
“You are the hope for our future as a state and as a nation, and we need you,” Mercer said during his remarks. “Take care of your people. Be professional, but humble and always do the right thing.”
The process of becoming officers began almost two years ago, with Phase Zero, comprised primarily of physical and mental challenges and designed to ensure the quality and caliber of the candidates who continue on in the program. Phase I consisted of a two-week training period replete with challenges designed to test the candidates in a variety of ways. Phase II included a year of monthly drill periods that included classroom time as well as time spent outside of drill weekends working on class and community projects. Phase III, the final phase of OCS, consisted of a final two-week training period that acted as a final test of the officer candidate’s leadership abilities and tested the knowledge they had gained over the previous months. The 17 commissioned candidates of Class 57 completed Phase III earlier this month.
“They have done an excellent job as a team and as individuals,” Col. Thomas L. Morgan, commander of the 183rd RTI, said in his remarks. “They definitely deserve their commissions here today and have exceeded all the minimum standards that OCS requires, and those standards are quite high.”
Following remarks by Mercer, awards were presented to six of the candidates who set themselves apart from their peers, along with an award presented to a cadre member.
The Harry Q. Rose Award is given by the Virginia National Guard Association and recognizes the candidate who has distinguished him or herself in leadership throughout the duration of the program. Capt. Harry Q. Rose, who the award is named after, is the only graduate of the school to have given his life in the service of his country. The award was presented to Officer Candidate Hector M. Perez-Casillas.
The Physical Fitness Award, given in the form of an Army Achievement Medal, recognizes the candidate with the highest physical fitness score and was presented to Officer Candidate L. Sage Otto, with an Army Physical Fitness Test score of 297, out of a possible 300 points.
The Commandant’s Award for Academic Achievement goes to the candidate with the highest academic average and went to Officer Candidate Warren E. Allen III, who had an average score of 96 percent.
The Leadership Excellence Award is awarded to the candidate who earns the highest overall leadership ratings during all three stages of the course. Throughout OCS, each officer candidate serves in different leadership roles and are then rated by their platoon trainers in extensive leadership evaluation reports. The candidate with the highest ratings receives the Leadership Excellence Award, which went to Officer Candidate Steven M. Workman.
The Col. James B. Moore III Award, named for the first commandant of the Virginia Officer Candidate School, is presented to the candidate who has considered to have made the most progress throughout the duration of the course. The award was presented to Officer Candidate Erin M. Noble.
The final student award is the most coveted, the Erickson Trophy, and goes to the distinguished honor graduate who stood out in all areas of the OCS environment. Workman was named the winner of the Erickson Trophy and his name will be engraved on a plaque in the OCS Classroom so future officer candidates can see their name.
The final award presented is the Maj. William T. “Tom” Bell Commandant Award for Leadership Excellence, presented to a cadre member who the candidates determined to have had a significant impact on their growth and development as future leaders. The recipient receives an Army Commendation Medal and a trophy and Bell’s daughter, Ms. Jennifer “Jenny” Bell Keating, was on hand to present this year’s award to Capt. Jonathan T. Glasscock.
Following the presentation of the awards, the candidates gathered on stage to take their oath of office together. It was their final act as officer candidates. Capt. Jodie Warren, senior platoon trainer, administered the oath.
Then, one by one, the candidates took to the stage to receive their diplomas from Mercer, before having family members and loved ones affix their new rank to their uniforms. The new lieutenants then received their first salute as officers from a noncommissioned officer before returning to their seats as lieutenants.
The graduating class of the Virginia National Guard’s Officer Candidate School Class 57 is as follows:
2nd Lt. Warren E. Allen III, originally from Nashua, N.H., who attended Bridgewater College with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and the University of Virginia School of Law. Allen joined the Virginia National Guard in 2013 and completed Basic Training in 2014. He joins a long line of family members who served in the military before him and has chosen to branch Aviation, where he will serve as a liaison officer with the Sandston-based Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment.
2nd Lt. Jonathan L. Bushnell, who grew up in Chesapeake, Va., and attended Chowan University in North Carolina, studying small business management and history. Bushnell joined the Virginia Army National Guard in 2012 and originally began OCS last year, but broke his foot before Phase I and had to recycle through the program. He branched Quartermaster and will serve as a platoon leader with Company F, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
2nd Lt. George A. Damian, from the Richmond area, attended George Mason University where he studied government and international politics before being accepted into the school’s Masters of Public Administration graduate program. Damian originally enlisted in the Virginia Army National Guard as an 89A Ammunition Stock Control and Accounting Specialist. He is branching Engineer Corps and will serve as a platoon leader with the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command.
2nd Lt. George A. Fernandez, from the Northern Virginia area, attended the Art Institute of Washington, earning a Bachelors in Media Arts and Animation. Fernandez now works as an animator/illustrator and is branching Chemical Corps and will serve as the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear Officer for the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
2nd Lt. Justin S. Field, originally from Rutland, Vt., participated in Boy Scouts of America, obtaining his Eagle Scout, and attended Utah State University. Field is married with two children and is branching Adjutant General Corps and will serve as the Battalion S-1, or human resources officer, in the Winchester-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
2nd Lt. Justin J. Furtek, originally from Oklahoma City, Okla., graduated from Radford University in 2005, where he studied media studies. Furtek’s father served in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years and rendered Furtek’s first salute. He is branching Chemical Corps and will serve as a platoon leader with the 229th Chemical Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command.
2nd Lt. Darius L. Hawkins, originally from Jacksonville, Fla., is the son of a retired naval warrant officer and attended Old Dominion University where he studied criminal justice and Columbia Southern University where he heard an MBA in business finance. Hawkins spent approximately nine years in the U.S. Army Reserve and the Virginia Army National Guard before pursuing his commission. He is branching Ordanance Corps and will serve as a platoon leader with Company D, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
2nd Lt. Kyle R. Hughes, from Williamsburg, Va., initially attend the Virginia Military Institute and then finished his degree online with the University of Oklahoma. Hughes missed the military environment of VMI and then joined the Virginia Army National Guard with the intent to commission. He is branching Infantry and will serve as a platoon leader with Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
2nd Lt. Michael D. Joines, originally from Washington, D.C., studied at Loyola University of New Orleans for his undergraduate studies and is currently worked toward a graduate degree at the University of Maryland. Joines joined the U.S. Army in 2003, completed Basic Training, Airborne School, Ranger School and deployed five times with 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Joines is branching Military Intelligence and will serve as the executive officer with the Headquarters Support Company of the Fort Belvoir-based 29th Infantry Division.
2nd Lt. Dennis L. Kier, from Richmond, Va., studied sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, and also studied law. Kier works in emergency services and joins both of his grandfathers who served in the U.S. Army. He is branching Engineer Corps, and will serve as with the Powhatan-based 180th Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command.
2nd Lt. Caleb S. Mast, originally from Orlando, Fla., attended Liberty University where he studied science in government before attending Libtery University of School of Law, where he earned his Juris Doctorate. Mast is branching Field Artillery and will serve as a fire support officer with the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
2nd Lt. Erin M. Noble, from Richmond, Va., attended Virginia Commonwealth University, and organically wanted to be a medic. Noble will become the first female to branch Field Artillery in the Virginia Army National Guard. She will serve as the fire direction officer for Battery A, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
2nd Lt. L. Sage Otto, from Hampton, Va., participated in the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps during her time in high school and attended Hollins University where she studied environmental studies and communications. Otto is an avid swimming and completed the U.S. Army’s rigorous Air Assault Course just one day before her commissioning. She is branching Engineer Corps, and will serve as a platoon leader with the 1033rd Engineer Company, 276th Engineer Battalion, 91st Troop Command.
2nd Lt. Hector M. Perez-Casillas, from the Washington, D.C. area, attended law school and is branching Infantry. He will serve as a platoon leader with Troop C, 2nd Battalion, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
2nd Lt. Gustavo A. Sequiera, originally from Nicaragua, immigrated to the U.S. when he was five years old. He graduated from George Mason University in 2012 after studying communications with a concentration in public relations. He enlisted in October 2001, and served as a unit supply specialist and deployed to Iraq in 2003. He joined the Virginia Army National Guard in 2004, and he deployed again in 2007. He is branching Quartermaster and will serve as a platoon leader with Company F, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
2nd Lt. D. Alexander Stein, from Richmond, Va., became a volunteer EMT after high school and decided to join the military after earning a Bachelor’s Degree. He is branching Signal Corps and will serve as a platoon leader with Detachment 1 of the 29th Infantry Division’s Signal Company.
2nd Lt. Steven M. Workman, originally from Fayetteville, N.C., is the son of a retired master sergeant. Stein attended the University of Oklahoma and later worked for a commercial driving school as a recruiter. Workman is branching Signal Corps and will serve as a platoon leader with Company C, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The Virginia National Guard Officer Candidate School was established in 1957 and officially began operation on April 19, 1958, and graduated its first class of 23 graduates on May 23, 1959. The school focuses on developing strong leadership skills among the enrolled candidates, along with rigorous physical development and consists of a branch immaterial program of instruction from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga.
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