GRAMBLING, La. -- Before he delivered the keynote address at their commissioning ceremony, a three-star general had a candid conversation around a conference table with Grambling State University ROTC cadets, May 12.

Army Materiel Command's Deputy Commanding General Lt. Gen. Larry Wyche discussed everything from football to family as the soon-to-be lieutenants peppered him with questions.

"You have a critical opportunity," Wyche told the cadets. "We are putting the lives of Soldiers in your hands. Your goal is to prepare them to be technically competent, and provide them support."

Six cadets took the oath of office at the historic institution, founded in 1901 as the Colored Industrial and Agricultural School. In response to a request for assistance, Tuskegee Institute's Booker T. Washington sent Charles P. Adams to help organize the school, and he became its founding president.

The school became Grambling College in 1946, named for P.G. Grambling, who donated the parcel of land where it was constructed.

Before they took the oath of commission in front of family and friends, Wyche told the cadets that they had both a tremendous opportunity and honor.

"You stand as a symbol and a testament that giving back is still what makes America great," he said. "We celebrate and salute you for joining the best Army in the world."

The commissioning ceremony is a time-honored tradition that marks the moment the Army passes the mantle of leadership and trust to a cadet to serve as an officer.

This year's commissioning has special significance as the Army marks the 100th anniversary of Army ROTC. Since its inception, more than 650,000 officers have commissioned through Army ROTC.

"These members of the Tiger Tough Battalion are among the capstone class of the last century," Wyche said. "They are the standard by which every Army ROTC class in the next century will be measured."