For the class of 2020, graduation ceremonies look a bit different than they have in the past. Instead of walking across the stage, many are finding themselves participating online in virtual commencement and Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps commissioning ceremonies. The memories and the moment still remain personal and family events.
“Today we honor these graduating students who have chosen to become Army officers – making a significant commitment to our nation,” said Gen. Michael X. Garrett, U.S. Army Forces Command Commanding General, during the Xavier University Reserve Officers' Training Corps May 15 commissioning ceremony. He reminded them to enjoy the occasion with family and friends who also participated during the online military ceremony.
“There are few callings as noble as the one you have answered,” Garrett said. “In fact, very few select the path of national service -- less than one percent of Americans raise their right hand -- and take the oath to serve in our military.”
For the class of 2020, Garrett said, this ceremony marks two milestones: the culmination of years of dedication and, more importantly, their appointment as second lieutenants in the United States Army. The Xavier “All For One Battalion” spring commissioning ceremony also included graduates from Miami University of Ohio and Northern Kentucky University.
Garrett, who graduated in 1984 from Xavier University, located in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the officiating officer during the virtual-commissioning ceremony.
“As the highest ranking graduate of the Xavier Army ROTC program, Garrett’s return to support his alma mater shows the profound impact Xavier had on his development as an officer and leader in the Army,” said Lt. Col. Michael Marchetti, Xavier Professor of Military Science.
This isn’t the first time Garrett has participated in the Xavier commissioning ceremony. It is something he has tried to do every year since becoming a general.
Marchetti said his participation is important because “he personally demonstrates what these commissioning cadets can achieve through hard work, determination and great leadership. His return also shows the full cycle of Army officership, from the initial entry ROTC training to command of the largest command in the United States Army, as well as every position in between.”
Garrett offered the 19 Army officers some leadership insights.
“A few months from now, you will finish your Basic Officer Leaders Course and report to your first duty assignment,” Garrett said. “And here’s my first piece of advice for you: remember you get one chance to make a first impression. Make sure you think about that before you report to your battalion commander or company commander.”
Garrett also acknowledged the unprecedented times and uncertainty the future holds. He told the new officers that future challenges will be dynamic and embracing diversity will “remain essential to mission success. No one knows it all, so be inclusive.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, students finished their semesters from afar and are not participating in traditional graduation and commissioning ceremonies; but Garrett said valuable lessons can be learned from this experience.
“Because the class of 2020 went through this trial, I believe that you have the potential to be the most resilient class ever,” Garrett told them.
And what does he recommend when facing future challenges? Garrett told the officers that there are three ways they can react. “You can reject it, and deny it, and feel sorry for yourself; you can accept it and say that’s the way things are, or, and what I would encourage you to do, is choose to embrace it.”
Garrett also spoke about the importance of taking care of Soldiers.
“Be positive and optimistic – it’s contagious. If you take nothing else away from my comments, remember this – The Army is in the people business,” he said.
“You have got to genuinely care for your Soldiers. I’m not saying you should be easy on your Soldiers; be demanding, seek excellence in all things, enforce standards, and train them hard. But always, always, care for them. This is what our nation expects, this is what our Soldiers deserve.”
Garrett administered the Oath of Office to the 19 graduates who were then pinned with the Second Lieutenant bar by members of their families and also received their first salute.
“To our newest officers – let me extend my sincere congratulations on your commissioning… Good luck to each and every one of you, God Bless to each and every one of you, and welcome to the ranks of the greatest team to ever take the field – the United States Army,” Garrett said.