When Georgia Gwinnett College held its May 12 commencement ceremony, it more than doubled its number of U.S. Army officers by commissioning four at once, including its first two female officers.
The GGC U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program enrolls about 200 students. Of those, only a small number follow through to make the commitment to serve in the Army. This commitment is celebrated through an official, private commissioning ceremony held just before the cadets graduate, then publicly honored at commencement with an oath of office.
Andrew Lee, 24, comes from a military family. He grew up in Niedernhausen, Germany, where his parents lived after retiring from the Army. His father was a Signal Corps officer and his mother was a logistics officer. Lee moved to Lawrenceville in 2012.
I enrolled in Georgia Gwinnetts ROTC program to become an officer just like my parents, and to serve a cause greater than myself, Lee said. His bachelors degree in business includes a concentration in international business.
Lee commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant – Infantry and will be assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia. He would like to become part of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Lees purposeful pursuit of a military career contrasts with the experience of his three fellow cadets, who discovered inspiration for their career paths after joining ROTC.
Like many students, Adam Robes said he didnt know what to do with his life until he happened to see a cadet in uniform one day during his freshman year. He approached the cadet and inquired about ROTC.
I signed up for it and I have loved it ever since, said Robes. I have learned great skills that will help me both with my Army career and on the business side such as discipline and time management, but most of all, how to lead.
Robes, 21, majored in psychology and would like to someday obtain a job in a police force and then eventually become part of a SWAT team. For that reason, the Lawrenceville resident commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the National Guards Military Police.
Ashleigh Simmons, 21, graduated with a bachelors degree in criminal justice with a concentration in criminology, and hopes to pursue a position with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. She will begin her career as an Active Duty 2nd Lieutenant in the Transportation Corps.
The Lawrenceville resident was one of the first members of the GGC intercollegiate softball team, and originally joined ROTC to stay in shape during the off season. She soon saw the Army as a career choice.
The camaraderie and family environment has meant the most to me throughout my time in GGC ROTC. It’s more than a class. Everyone in the program motivates and supports each other because we want to see one another achieve their goals, said Simmons. This program has given me life-long friends. It’s prepared me for my future because the classes teach you leadership skills, how to work with all different kinds of people, and how to think critically to solve a solution.
Alicia Griffiths transferred to Georgia Gwinnett after a disappointing experience at another college. She chose GGC because it was convenient to her Loganville family and because of its military science program.
Inspired by her grandfather, a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and her father, who attended military school, Griffiths was attracted to the idea of flying planes and defending the nation. She commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Signal Corps, a branch responsible for information systems and communications.
Enrolling in GGC and taking that class turned out to be two of the best decisions of my life, Griffiths said. I built a group of friends who became my second family, and it led to my becoming an Army officer. It made me realize my purpose in life. ROTC has pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to the point that I know I can do anything I set my mind to.
As with Simmons, camaraderie meant a great deal to Griffiths.
The best memories in ROTC involve building a family with the cadets and cadre. I have done everything with them for three years, she said. I have grown closer with them through the difficult times and challenges we faced together. When someones family member died, we were there. When someone could not make it up a hill, we were there to tell them they could do it. There is no other organization in college that I know of that allows you to become so close.
The two women take pride in making GGC history, but see themselves as part of a growing legacy of leadership.
It’s an amazing feeling to be the first females to commission from this program, Simmons said. Alicia and I contracted together, so I’m glad that we commissioned together, as well. This is just the first step, though. There is a group of great female cadets in the program who will follow in our footsteps.
I was very excited when Ashleigh and I became the first females to contract with the Army, Griffiths said. I am confident in my abilities and the leadership skills I have gained through ROTC. I will make my impact on the world.