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ROTC seniors prepare to accept military duties

Kaitlynn Riely | Friday, May 19, 2006

After four years of service to God and Notre Dame, 64 ROTC cadets will be commissioned as officers Saturday and begin to directly serve their country through the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

The tri-military ceremony will take place Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Joyce Center. The senior cadets will say an oath of office and then receive a certificate of their commissioning. University President Father John Jenkins is expected to attend the ceremony.

Captain Amy Bellenbaum, the commandant of cadets for Air Force ROTC has supervised the training of this year’s graduation class. She said the ceremony is marked by tradition.

“At the end, they all do three cheers and they get to throw their hats up in the air,” Bellenbaum said.

The graduating cadets will be commissioned with a first officer rank. The Air Force will commission 19 second lieutenants, the Army will also commission 19 and the Marine Corps three. The Navy will commission 23 ensigns.

Lieutenant David McCaffrey worked closely with this year’s graduating Navy and Marine cadets. He said the commissioning of an officer signifies that individual’s continuous dedication to the service throughout the person’s college career. He said those commissioned are “extremely driven individuals.”

“It is a significant accomplishment and it reflects a commitment to doing ROTC through all four years,” McCaffrey said.

Major General John Scully – who retired as Commanding General of the 102nd U.S. Army Reserve Command in 1996 – will speak at the ceremony and will swear in the new officers. Scully graduated from Notre Dame in 1964 and received a Master of Arts Degree in English from DePaul University in 1966.

Scully entered the army through ROTC in 1964 as an Adjutant General Corps officer. He was deployed to Vietnam in 1967 and entered the Reserves in 1968. Scully has extensive leadership experience. He served as the commander of the 425th Transportation Brigade and also as Commanding General of the 86th U.S. Army Reserve Command.

Scully is highly decorated for his service, and his honors include the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.

In his civilian career, Scully remains active in leadership roles. He is a group senior vice president in the Human Resources Department for ABN AMRO, where he is responsible for human resource services for the LaSalle Bank’s Commercial Lending and Corporate Staff. Scully is currently a member of several community organizations, and he serves on the Notre Dame Alumni Board.

The graduating cadets will be sent to their respective assignments to learn their specialties. Army Captain Tom Dukeman said whether a student gets their first choice of assignment depends on how high they are ranked on a national merit list. Dukeman said the Army ROTC is in the top 15 percent of programs nationally, and this year’s graduating class continued the tradition and scored well nationally.

“Almost all of them got pretty much what they wanted to do, which is a credit to Notre Dame, with academics being what they are here, because we definitely had some really intelligent students coming out of this program,” Dukeman said.

Army ROTC cadet Captain Patrick Nagorski received his first choice of assignment – in June he will enter the Michigan National Guard. Nagorski will also attend Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Nagorski said being a member of the ROTC at Notre Dame was a rewarding experience and the best thing he did in college.

“While most people do service here and there, you are training for four years to serve everyone in the nation,” Nagorski said. “You give not just of your time, but you also give of yourself, your energy, your own personality and your soul.”

McCafferty said the Navy graduates also overwhelmingly received the assignments they listed as their first preference. He said 91 percent of the seniors received their first choice of assignments, and 100 percent received their first or second choice. McCafferty said the Navy ROTC program, which historically commissions more officers into the Navy and the Marine Corps than any other source beside the Naval Academy, prepares cadets well for their leadership position in the Fleet or in the Corps.

“The reputation of Notre Dame naval officers in the Fleet is second to none,” McCafferty said. “There are Notre Dame naval officers as admirals commanding ships over in the Gulf right now, maintaining a great name for Notre Dame and the ROTC unit right here.”

Graduating senior and Navy ROTC cadet Bryan Kreller also said he has observed a difference between the Notre Dame cadet and cadets from other programs.

“Based on what I’ve seen from the people that I’ve met from other units … around the country, the people in my class are a cut above,” Kreller said.

Kreller will be attending Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Charlestown, S.C. this summer to prepare for submarine service.

Bellenbaum estimates 16 of the 19 graduating Air Force ROTC seniors received their first choice for their career and location. She called these students “the cream of the crop” referring to their involvement in extracurricular activities beyond the demands of school work and ROTC duties.

Soon after graduation, the newly commissioned officers from all three branches will be heading to places like Virginia, South Carolina and California to begin their specialized training or to continue their education. Nagorski said the leadership experiences he has had at Notre Dame have prepared him for his upcoming responsibilities.

“I could not ask for better preparation,” Nagorski said. “It has challenged me in ways that I didn’t even think I could be challenged.”