MARION, Ala. -- Major General Clark LeMasters returned to his alma mater May 9 to commission 29 Marion Military Institute cadets into the United States Army.

Thirty-three years ago he stood in their shoes and repeated the same oath of office. Today, he is the Army Materiel Command's deputy chief of staff for operations and logistics.

AMC is a $50 billion organization charged with providing equipment to the nation's warfighters throughout the world.

To the families attending the commissioning ceremony, LeMasters encouraged them to be proud of their cadets and thanked them for the sacrifices they made to get their cadets to this point.

"These new officers are beginning a new chapter in their life and it's a significant accomplishment," said LeMasters. "They would not be here today if it were not for your commitment, sacrifices, love and encouragement."

To the cadets being commissioned, LeMasters offered some advice.

"Through your commissioning today, you are now a Soldier and a leader in our Army," LeMasters said. "Being a Soldier and a leader requires being hands-on and a lot of dedication on your part--a lot of hard work, commitment, some sweat, maybe some blood, and possibly a few tears."

LeMasters urged the cadets to follow their hearts and do what is right.

"As a leader, you are trusted with one of the most valuable things in the world--that's the care, the welfare and the lives of others," LeMasters said. "That is an awesome responsibility and It is the most important responsibility you have as an officer."

LeMasters said the Army will challenge them but it's a rewarding experience.

"You'll see everything from setbacks to great joys and whether you stay in the Army for a few years or make it a career, you will be better for having had the experience," he said. "When you leave the Army, take the great values that we have instilled in you back to your communities, and continue to help our nation move forward."

Army ROTC has a total of 273 programs and an enrollment of more than 35,000 students at colleges and universities throughout the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The program produces about 60 percent of the second lieutenants who join the Army and its Guard and Reserve components.