Saluting with one hand and holding a diploma in the other, 17 GW Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps students became military officers Friday morning at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va.
Navy commanders commissioned a total of 29 students from GW, Georgetown University, Howard University and the University of Maryland. The weather, despite forecasts of heavy showers, stayed clear for the ceremony, and the sun peeked out from behind heavy clouds onto the bronze World War II Iwo Jima statues at the graduation site.
The ceremony’s keynote speaker was Rear Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch, director of information, plans and security for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Branch said that graduation from the Navy ROTC program is a completion of academic and military requirements, but that the knowledge gained after graduation will be even more important to their future and that of the country.
“Even though you have all graduated from esteemed institutions, this should in no way lead you to believe that your learning curve will plateau. Actually, quite the contrary is true,” he said. “Your learning curve will exponentially grow and this time around, when you are tested with the skills you’re tasked with mastering, it won’t be about grades, but rather the lives of sailors and marines that have entrusted you to lead.”
Branch added, “It is your charge to never stop learning . the Navy and Marine Corps are depending on you.”
The graduates reflected similar feelings of responsibility after the ceremony and expressed pride in completing their NROTC service.
“It feels outstanding. I don’t know how to put in words, but it just feels like I have accomplished something so much more than just graduating. It’s such a great sense of achievement to take the next step,” said Chris Bourque, who assumed the rank of ensign.
Unlike many graduating seniors who are unsure of where the troublesome economy and tight job market will take them, students within the NROTC program each have definite plans of either continuing military school or reporting for duty.
“It’s four years in the making and it feels great. For me, I know where I’m going – to the Navy. We immediately play a role in making an impact in this world while our other classmates are taking more time and it just feels good to have that,” said Kasey Lewis, who also assumed the ensign rank.
As a token of appreciation for their commanding officer, the GW graduates presented Capt. Brian Gawne with a wooden oar, a symbol that dates back to the time of the Vikings and signifies pulling one’s own weight.
GW NROTC instructors Gunnery Sgt. Michael Reed and Capt. Todd E. Moulder were presented with the Secretary of the Navy Award for their service to the program.
Leaving the ceremony, graduates added their new rank adornments onto their uniforms and gave their first salute as officers.