GW NROTC graduates: Serving in a new world

When this year’s graduating Naval Reserve Training Officers Corps class came to GW four years ago, most U.S. troops were not engaged in combat.

Since then, with the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of thousands of soldiers have been sent to conflict-ridden areas, and several GW graduates will undoubtedly be risking life and limb as they embark on their military careers.

But at their commissioning ceremony at the Iwo Jima Memorial Friday, officers showed no reservations about possibly being deployed to war-torn parts of the world.

“The reason I joined was because I am willing to die for my country and willing to die protecting my family and friends’ way of life,” said graduating senior Jennifer Bacon, who will be going to Virginia to serve on the USS Tortuga. “This war on terrorism and war in Iraq isn’t going to change that, it just makes it a lot more real.”

Marine and Navy officers said they are excited to have the chance to serve their country.

“I am as committed now as I was the first day, and I am ready and excited to go off and serve my nation,” said Patrick Kay, a surface warfare officer who will report to San Diego.

Bacon and Kay, along with eight other GW graduates who became commissioned officers Friday, will soon be posted on ships and bases throughout the world as they begin their service in the Navy and Marine Corps.

“It’s going to be scary,” said Katherine Kimsey, who will be going to Sasebo, Japan. “But the U.S. has been so good to me and my family that I felt it was my obligation to give something back to my country, and serving in the Navy is a great way to do that.”

Some parents of graduates said they are proud of their children even though they have safety concerns.

“Nobody likes the thought of your son or daughter going away to a dangerous place,” said John Peters, stepfather of 2nd Lt. Daniel Granger, who will be attending flight school in Pensacola, Fla. “But when it comes to protecting the freedoms and democracy that we value, I am proud to say that my son is standing up for those and serving our country.”

After four years of physical, mental and academic training, NROTC members were commissioned Friday morning by Rear Admiral Raymond Spicer, a decorated Naval director, at a memorial commemorating the sacrifices of soldiers during World War II.

GW’s NROTC program prepares 150 students from universities throughout the city to become officers in the Navy and Marine Corps. A total of 28 graduates from GW and other D.C. universities became officers Friday.

“These officers are absolutely ready to serve their country and become leaders in the United States Navy,” said Captain Peter Healy, the commanding officer of the GW NROTC program.

At Friday’s ceremony, Spicer emphasized the selectivity of the NROTC program, which recruited 41,000 students nationwide compared to 57,000 four years ago.

“(W)e are spending less money recruiting less officers and are able to spend more money on our human capital and be even more selective in who we let in,” he said.

The commissioned officers will pick specialties and serve their country in a variety of areas, including surface warfare, nuclear power training, artillery and aviation. They also get to choose from a “wish list” of locations around the world where they would like to report for duty.

Senior officers offered advice to the new servicemen and women at Friday’s ceremony.

“Leadership is why you are in the Navy,” Spicer said. “You are here being commissioned today because you have shown that you have the ability to lead a group, and now will be entrusted with the lives of America’s finest sons and daughters.”

Bacon, a surface warfare officer who was one of the top students in this year’s class, said the newly appointed officers will perform well in their posts.

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