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Senior ROTC cadets to be commissioned as officers

Amanda Gray | Friday, May 20, 2011

The Class of 2011 will commission the second largest Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) class in more than a decade, Capt. Dale Nees, a professor of Naval Science, said.

After serving as the commanding officer of the Naval ROTC Unit and the tri-military chair for the ROTC program, Nees said he enjoyed watching the current seniors grow during their four years at Notre Dame.

“I arrived when these ‘kids’ did,” Nees said. “I watched them mature. It’s significant that they’re going to be entrusted with the safety of America’s youth. They’ve been very dedicated, and they represent a good cross section of the University.”

The ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday and will be followed by a reception in the Pasquerilla Center. The Army will commission 17 2nd Lieutenants, the Air Force will commission 17 and the Marine Corps will commission six. The Navy will commission 25 ensigns.

Senior Alex Barbuto, an Army cadet, said he joined ROTC as a freshman because he wanted to serve his country and follow a family tradition of military service.

Four years later, Barbuto will be commissioned as an officer Saturday alongside 64 others seniors graduating from the ROTC program this year.

“One of the best things we have [in Notre Dame’s ROTC] is we’re all very dedicated to helping each other out,” Barbuto said.

Capt. Earl Carter, a professor of Naval Science and commanding officer of the Naval ROTC Unit, said while he is new to the ROTC program, he predicts the graduating class will be successful after their time at Notre Dame.

“These young men and women will measure up in every respect,” Carter said.

The students at Notre Dame will make valuable contributions to the military, he said.

“From an outsider’s perspective, the quality [of the students] is extraordinary,” he said. “I’m impressed. They’re going to be great additions.”

Matthew Zak, a senior Navy midshipman, said he joined ROTC to serve the country he loves.

“My dad and my uncle both did ROTC at Notre Dame and my dad encouraged me to look into the program,” he said. “I knew that it would be a challenge, but it would set me up with a lot of experience. I also chose the Navy because I wanted see the world and follow my dreams of being a Navy pilot.”

Zak serves as the tri-military commander for ROTC this school year and he coordinated events between the three military branches at Notre Dame. He will be commissioned as an ensign Saturday.

“The best thing about ROTC at Notre Dame is the unity between the group of fellow students going through the program. We have been through so much together. I would do anything for them if they needed it,” he said. “I feel they would help me out if I ever needed anything. The leadership and teaching from our instructors is second to none and they have set us all up for success in the fleet.”

Senior Midshipman First Class Nicholas Geraci said the advisors in ROTC give the program its strength.

“Without a doubt, Notre Dame’s ROTC program pulls in some of the highest caliber military officers to teach, mentor and train us,” he said. “They are experts in their fields and bring various backgrounds and professional experiences to the table. In the course of four years, they have truly been pivotal in transforming us from simply ‘high schoolers’ into military officers and leaders.”

After four years in Notre Dame’s program, senior Cadet James Hasson said members of ROTC learn to be successful officers by example.

“After looking at successful officers and not-so-successful ones, you see that leadership isn’t about yourself,” he said. “It’s about serving the people you’re in charge of. Those officers and [non-commissioned officers] I respected the most are the ones that cared about us.”

As senior Cadet Louisa White prepares to leave Notre Dame, she said she will most miss the “college experience.”

“[The officer commissioning] is just a new chapter in our lives,” she said. “We just learned as much as we can. In a way, we’re still students going in [to the service], even though we’re still graduated.”

While the responsibility of the new positions is intimidating for some, the ROTC seniors said it is also exciting to begin their commissions.

“I am a little anxious, perhaps a little nervous, to set foot on that submarine for the first time and see 15 glowing eyes staring at me thinking, ‘This guy has no idea what he’s doing,'” Geraci said. “But I am also very excited and extremely grateful for the training, education and experience I have received here at Notre Dame.”