NEWS | May 4, 2021

Virginia National Guard welcomes nine new officers

By Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti JFHQ Public Affairs

The Virginia Army National Guard welcomed nine new lieutenants to their ranks in a ceremony held April 25, 2021, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The new lieutenants are part of the Virginia National Guard’s winter accelerated Officer Candidate School Class 64A. Col. Doyle Gillis, the Virginia National Guard’s director of manpower and personnel, served as the guest speaker for the event, while Lt. Col. James C. Shaver, commander of 3rd Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, administered the oath of office. 

“Never stop learning, never stop preparing and always be ready,” Gillis told the new officers during his remarks. He shared the story of Capt. Robert Walker, who stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day June 6, 1944, during World War II. He was assigned as the operations officer, or S3, for the 116th Infantry Regiment and was charged with setting up the unit’s headquarters once on shore. But the landing craft he was on struck a mine before hitting the shore and the men onboard immediately came under intense enemy fire. Walker swam to shore and, over the next many hours, overcame incredible odds and survived to later resume the duties as the S3. 

“He would repeatedly find himself in situations in which he was required to demonstrate courage, leadership and above all, tactical and technical proficiency,” Gillis explained. He said, “We don’t get to pick the role we play, we simply do that which fate and duty demands of us.” 

He encouraged the new officers to remember they are part of an Army team that has experienced incredible moments over the long course of history, that they wear the same uniforms and insignia as those who came before them. 

“You have the burden of leadership, with a bar set so very high, but with the blessing of so many exceptional examples to show you the way,” Gillis said. “Even if you never get the opportunity for a magnificent moment, I hope you have the confidence that your service is meaningful and worthy of your efforts.” 

The graduating class of the Virginia National Guard’s Officer Candidate School Class 64A is as follows:

  • 2nd Lt. Gabrielle R. Avilla, originally from Guam and a current resident of Arlington, Virginia, is branching as an engineer. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon. Her mother, Sgt. 1st Class Cynthia Avilla, rendered her first salute while both her parents affixed her second lieutenant bars to her uniform. 
  • 2nd Lt. Cornelius C. Boykins grew up as an Army brat and is branching infantry. He is a graduate of Old Dominion University and will serve in 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He is currently working through the hiring process to work with a federal law enforcement agency in Washington, D.C. 
  • 2nd Lt. Ryan J. Foster, originally from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, is branching field artillery. He is a graduate of the College of the Albermarle and currently works as an IT specialist on the civilian side. 
  • 2nd Lt. Samuel S. Finley, a native of Southwest Virginia, its branching infantry. He is a graduate of Radford University and is planning to get married this summer.
  • 2nd Lt. Justin L. Gable, originally from New Castle, Virginia, is branching air defense artillery. He is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and has worked in EMS for 17 years. 
  • 2nd Lt. Eddie B. Jones, originally from New York City, New York, is branching as an engineer. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland and currently works in IT in Northern Virginia. 
  • 2nd Lt. Heather L. Lambert, originally from Stafford, Virginia, is branching field artillery. She holds a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and a master’s from Virginia Commonwealth University. 
  • 2nd Lt. Jonathan S. Rosebrook, originally from Saratoga Springs, New York, is branching as an engineer. He is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology and Cornell University and is currently employed by Lockheed Martin. 
  • 2nd Lt. Scott F. Williams, originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, is branching into the chemical corps. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and currently works as a lab specialist. 

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