Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, spoke to Army Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets, their families and friends during the commissioning ceremony for the 2017 graduating class at Alabama's oldest four-year public university May 12.

Ten cadets of the University of North Alabama Army ROTC "Lion Battalion" in Florence, Ala. were commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants during the ceremony. The Oath of Office was administered, followed by the pinning on of bars of gold, first salute and presentation of ceremonial coin.

Just before cadets raised their right hands, Gayler in his remarks said it was a privilege to be part of the moment marking the first steps of a journey of honorable professional service to come. He reflected on his own experience when he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant at University of North Georgia, and admonished the cadets to pay attention to the words of the Oath of Office.

"This is a huge day," Gayler told the cadets. "In a few moments you're going to have an opportunity to promise and swear an oath that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

"Nowhere in that oath does it say you swear an allegiance to a person, a king, a body or entity. You will swear an oath to an ideal codified in writing on paper that guarantees liberties and freedoms for our nation. That is hugely important. Pay attention to the words. They matter," Gayler said.

Taking the obligation freely is about a sense of volunteerism and selfless service that the nation was founded on, he said.

"Our Army is a profession. You have already distinguished yourselves from other civilians and classmates. Less than one percent of our nation has served in our military. You are soon to join the ranks of those elite men and women that will honestly be recognized and admired across the globe," he said. "You are worthy inheritors of the history and the ideals that course through this great institution."

While the cadets worked hard to get to this point, there is more work yet to be done, he said.

"You are about to embark upon the responsibility to care for our greatest treasures--our American sons and daughters. You're absolutely up to it; you are prepared for it," Gayler said.

The journey ahead will involve successes and failures.

"Learn from both of them. They are equally important," he said.

Gayler told the cadets to be positive, always strive to become better than they are today, never stop growing, and always honor those who have given great sacrifice. The Army needs their leadership, he said.

Most important, they must take care of Soldiers.

"Our Soldiers deserve competent leaders of character who are committed to selfless service. You will be that example for them," he said.

Gayler also recognized the families as "what makes the journey worthwhile," he said.

Ceremony host Lt. Col. William C. Pruett, a field artillery officer and professor of military science at the university, said the officers must lead their teams from the front.

"Beginning with the American Revolution and until today officers have shouldered the responsibility of leading our Soldiers to mission accomplishment in both peacetime an in war. Inherent in that leadership is the responsibility to lead well," Pruett said. "This leadership requires officers who are willing and able to share the hardships and burdens they require of their teams."

Pruett recalled serving with Gayler during Operation Iraqi Freedom I in 2003 as elements of the 101st Combat Aviation "Destiny" Brigade attacked deep into enemy territory during the initial invasion of Iraq. Pruett served as an artillery fires support officer and Gayler was the brigade operations officer at the time. Pruett recalled a warrant officer Aviator who thanked Pruett for saving his life that day by answering the call for artillery support. A takeaway from that successful mission was the value of teamwork.

"It took a team that day. It takes a team to win," said Pruett.

Pruett commended Gayler for his common sense approach and grasp of teamwork during his career.

"I'm super appreciative that Major General Gayler decided to come down and spend time with us, and give his words of wisdom to the newly commissioned lieutenants and cadets. It's personally meaningful to me, and I think very professionally rewarding for everybody," Pruett said.

Five of the newly commissioned officers will serve in the active component, and five will serve in the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve.