A Future of Military Service: BYU Air Force and Army ROTC Commissioning Ceremonies
PROVO, Utah – Jun 16, 2020 – On 23 April 2020, five BYU Marriott Army ROTC cadets commissioned into the US Army in person at BYU during individual small ceremonies broadcast over Facebook Live while ten additional cadets commissioned in a group commissioning ceremony via virtual conference call. In addition to these fifteen Army ROTC cadets, sixteen (including at least one from UVU) Air Force ROTC cadets commissioned into the US Air Force on 15 May 2020 through virtual conference calls or in-person with audiences of less than ten people.
Though large groups of cadets’ family and friends usually attend BYU Marriott Army and Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremonies, this spring’s commissioning ceremonies were modified so cadets can commission as second lieutenants in the military in accordance with university and Utah state guidelines implemented to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
“A lot of people don’t know what the commissioning ceremony is, and commissioning is a big deal,” says 2nd Lt. Trevor Gowdy, who, in addition to commissioning into the US Army, graduated from BYU this April with a major in sociology. “When someone commissions, they’re choosing to protect and defend the United States of America.” Commissioning Air Force ROTC and Army ROTC cadets agree to a period of military service and become military officers with the rank of second lieutenants.
Though the cadets’ commissioning ceremonies aren’t traditional this year, the atypical events offer potential benefits. “Broadcasting the ceremony live over Facebook allowed everyone throughout the world to tune in and watch,” continues Gowdy, who is from Cumming, Georgia. Several of his family members were able to watch his commissioning ceremony from Georgia.
In spite of the changes to the ceremony necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, parts of the ceremony remain the same, including the oath of office. During the oath, both Army and Air Force ROTC cadets swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic,” “bear true faith and allegiance to the same,” and to “well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which [they are] about to enter.”
BYU Marriott Army ROTC commissioning cadets received the oath of office from either Lt. Col. Forrest “Chip” Cook, the professor of military science in the Army ROTC program and program director, or from another current or retired member of the military of their choosing. Air Force ROTC cadets received the oath of office from either Col. Frederick Thaden, department chair of BYU Marriott’s Department of Aerospace Studies and commander of BYU Air Force ROTC Detachment 855, or another current or retired member of the military of their choosing.
“Taking the oath is a formative moment,” says Cook. “There's a significance that many of us have taken away from the moment when we take the oath of office—an increased sense of purpose and an increased sense of duty and responsibility to the country, the Constitution, and our fellow man. Everybody who has the privilege remembers that time and place where we were able to raise our hand and take that oath.”
After Army ROTC cadets took the oath of office, whether they took the oath in person or from another location via a virtual conference call, family members pinned shoulder boards, which show an officer’s military rank, onto the newly commissioned second lieutenants’ uniforms. The first salute, another commissioning ceremony tradition, was also included in this April’s Army ROTC group and in-person commissioning ceremonies. In this tradition, an enlisted member of the military salutes the newly commissioned second lieutenant after the cadet has taken the oath of office.
Air Force ROTC commissioning cadets took the oath of office and became second lieutenants on 15 May. “The oath of office is the core of the commissioning ceremony,” says Thaden. “Cadets take the oath of office, which is essentially a commitment to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and move on in their career as an officer in the military.”
BYU Marriott Air Force ROTC cadet Sydney Clark received the oath of office from her father, Air Force Lt. Col. Nathan Barrett. “Taking the oath of office means that I have a duty to serve others, work hard, and have integrity,” says Clark, who graduated this April with a degree in exercise science from BYU. “The commissioning ceremony is a special ceremony for my family as I follow in my father’s footsteps.” Clark will be a force support officer stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. Her husband, cadet Logan Clark, also commissioned into the Air Force and will attend pilot training at Wichita Falls, Texas.
Air Force ROTC cadets also participated in their first salutes on 15 May, a tradition Thaden enjoyed at his own commissioning ceremony. “My first salute was from my father, who was enlisted in the Army,” says Thaden. The Air Force ROTC commissioning also provided cadets’ families or friends the opportunity to pin on the newly commissioned second lieutenants’ new rank.
Even though this spring’s commissioning ceremonies aren’t traditional, the commissioning cadets are following in the footsteps of past cadets as they take a step forward into their futures. “Commissioning is the day when you get the mainsail up, the wind blows, and the wind catches the sail and off you go,” says Cook, comparing commissioning to sailing. “It's a great moment where you are invigorated and encouraged to move forward in your career as an officer.”
The newly commissioned second lieutenants from BYU Marriott’s Army ROTC include Gowdy, Daniel Arana, Adam Caruso, Christopher Chelson, Joshua Collins, Kealani Creech, Westley Jennings, Daniel Klebingat, David Pansegrau, Jacob Price, Alexander Robison, Kevin Rose, Mitchell Steele, Devin Sturgeon, and Benjamin David Wolfley.
Commissioning cadets from BYU Marriott’s Air Force ROTC program will include Bailey Bates, Stephen Bohn, Tre Brady, Tyler Brady, the Clarks, Aaron Cox, Frank Daybell, Matthew Fife, Ryan Firth, Robert McCown, Ed Reid, Trevor Tanner, Kendall Winterhalter, and Travis Woodfield. Cadet Steven Holley from UVU also commissioned.
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Natalia Green