Clad in crisp white uniforms, shaking the hands of their superiors, 15 Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps graduates were commissioned as military officers in a ceremony May 13.
Held in the William G. McGowan Theater in the National Archives Building, the ceremony brought family, friends and naval officers together to celebrate the academic graduation and commissioning of a total of 21 Navy ROTC cadets into officer positions.
Navy ROTC members from nearby American University, Howard University, Georgetown University and The University of Maryland were commissioned in the ceremony. Of the 15 GW students, one was commissioned to the second lieutenant position, with the rest entering the naval fleet as ensigns.
The ceremony began with the introduction of each graduate, announcing the students’ hometowns and fields of study as they walked somberly to face their superiors who stood on stage.
Capt. Sterling G. Gilliam, commanding officer of the GW Naval ROTC unit, presented opening remarks following the formal presentation of the colors and the playing of the national anthem by Navy ROTC cadets.
“Few places are more poignant than the National Archives…If you think about it, here on the National Mall, we are literally surrounded by testaments to the service and sacrifice of our fellow countrymen,” Gilliam said in opening remarks.
Keynote speaker Rear Adm. David Thomas, commander of the Naval Surface Force Atlantic, offered advice to the graduates on how to achieve success in their positions and reminded them of the influence they will have as officers.
“Work hard, do your best, make things happen and be good, and you will be successful beyond your wildest dreams, and you will make a difference to our nation, our Navy and Marine Corps and the many men and women that are going to be reporting to you,” Thomas said.
He continued to speak of the members of the Navy the graduates would be expected to lead.
“They deserve every ounce of dedication and effort and commitment and courage and honor that you can apply to your commission. So if you remember nothing else, please remember you work for them. You are the ideal that they will aspire to grow up and be like.”
The new officers were commissioned one by one as their plans for the next chapter in their military careers were announced. While many will report for duty immediately, some plan to attend further training and education within the Navy.
“It’s been four years since we started. I have become very close with this class, and it is great to set off now to our future career paths. I am excited to be finished and to be entering into the fleet,” David Kehoe, commissioned as an ensign, said.
Kehoe graduated with a bachelor’s in international affairs, and will attend aviation preflight indoctrination training in Pensacola, Fla.
Sharon and Clarence Umbel traveled from Ft. Meyers, Fla. to see their granddaughter Courtney Keiser be commissioned as an ensign and graduate with a bachelor of arts in human services.
“It’s quite an honor and tribute to all the work that she has done through these four years. We are so proud to be here and celebrate with her,” Sharon Umbel said.
Keiser will report aboard USS Vella Gulf, a naval ship ported in Norfolk, Va.
Parents Nikki and Roger Goodstein said they were impressed and moved by the ceremony.
“I am beyond proud, amazed by his accomplishments. To graduate and be commissioned is pretty superb,” Goodstein said of her son.
Jake Goodstein will report aboard USS Oscar Austin, also ported in Norfolk, Va.
The newly commissioned officers were presented to the audience in an about-face, received by a standing ovation.