FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Nine college graduates were recognized in a ceremony at the Main Post Chapel yesterday.

The students were the first recognized in what organizers hope becomes an annual occurence.

"We understand the schools have their own graduations, but we decided as a committee to recognize the military members who have graduated," said Wilfred Jeffcoat, director of military programs for Midlands Technical College and ceremony chairman.

Students from several of Fort Jackson's tenant institutions, including Midlands Tech, University of South Carolina, Troy University and Webster University participated.
Participating graduates, who graduated anytime during the 2008-2009 school year, were recognized for earning either their associate's or master's degree.

Shirley O'Neal, education services officer, said the purpose of the ceremony is to provide those students working with on-post institutions a special recognition.

"Sometimes they get lost in the crowd, so I wanted it to be an event where we say, 'Congratulations, job well done,'" she said.

She said she also wants the special recognizition to serve as an incentive for students to continue their education while assigned to Fort Jackson.

"I'm hoping it will enhance and promote others who want to continue their education," she said.

O'Neal, who spoke at the recognition ceremony, told the graduates that receiving their degrees was an accomplishment.

"This is a stepping stone," she said. "I commend all of those who took that step, because it is a big step."

Jeffcoat said he is proud of all the graduates, and as an Air Force retiree, he knows the hard work involved in working full-time while pursuing a degree.

"I had to work and get my master's, bachelor's and associate's," he said. "I know that those students have worked hard, and they deserve all the recognition they can get."