UD ROTC Reaches Milestone - Commissions Over 100 Cadets

May 11, 2017 | Stacey Ortman, director of public information

ROTC Commissioning - Group (700x400 px)

DUBUQUE, Iowa – The University of Dubuque Army ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program has commissioned over 100 cadets in the United States Army since the program was reactivated in 2004. The milestone was reached today when 12 cadets were commissioned at the 2017 ROTC Commissioning Ceremony in Steffens Hall, Charles and Romona Myers Center. Two cadets will be commissioned second lieutenants this summer, bringing the total cadets commissioned at UD to 105 since 2004.

“A lot of good students come through this program,” said retired Col. Dan Kammiller, military science faculty and ROTC recruiter. “I’ve commissioned every one of those cadets. I’ve seen them all grow.”

The ceremony’s guest speaker was Col. Craig S. Baumgartner, the commander and district engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Rock Island District. He was commissioned in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May 1993 from the U.S. Military Academy. Baumgartner has received numerous military awards and decorations including Legion of Merit Medal, Bronze Star Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal with bronze star, and Iraq Campaign Medal with three bronze stars.

“It is important to recognize that the move from cadet to second lieutenant is momentous,” Baumgartner told the cadets during his speech. “You are in the United States Army – a proud institution.”

During the ceremony, graduating seniors took an oath of office and had their new rank pinned on their uniform by loved ones and/or military officers. The newly commissioned officers then completed the “first salute” – a tradition wherein students walked through the arch of sabers to receive their first salute as a member of the military from a current or prior enlisted officer, typically a family member. Students, in turn, gave the person who gave them their first salute a silver dollar as part of a longstanding military tradition.

“There’s a lot of tradition and meaning that goes into the commissioning ceremony,” Kammiller said.

The UD ROTC program is offered through a partnership with University of Northern Iowa. It is opened to students at UD, Clarke University, and Loras College, though this year’s commissioning class are all UD students. The program was reactivated in 2004 after it had been shut down for 10 years due to Department of Defense downsizing. It is a college elective students can try out for up to two years with no obligation.

ROTC Commissioning 2017 (700x400 px)

Among the cadets who were commissioned was Stephen Adjei (pictured above), a senior aviation management major from Worcester, Massachusetts, whose self-proclaimed goal in life is to make a difference.

“I feel like my calling is to be part of the Army and that way I can make a difference,” he said.

Adjei was commissioned second lieutenant and assigned active duty, Quartermaster Branch. His first salute was given by his father, Staff Sgt. Michael Oduro.

“I’ve worked my whole life to make my dad proud, because he believes in education,” Adjei said, adding. “Having the honor of my dad being my first salute just means the world to me. That guy has mentored me my whole life, and he guided me through this path.”

Kaitlyn and Kirsten Velsvaag, twin sisters from Wiesbaden, Germany, were also honored to have family participate in the ceremony. Their mother, retired Master Sgt. Linnea Velsvaag, gave them their first salutes.

“Everything we’ve been working up to has been this commissioning,” said Kirsten Velsvaag. “It’s a milestone for the beginning of your military career.”

That milestone was reached through ROTC, which the Velsvaags said allowed them to travel the world, from Kentucky to Bulgaria, and learn valuable time management and leadership skills. The sisters were each commissioned second lieutenants. Kaitlyn Velsvaag, a senior criminal justice and psychology double major, was assigned active duty, Military Police. Kirsten Velsvaag, a senior human health science major, was assigned active duty, Engineer Branch.

“It’s just a big adventure,” said Kirsten Velsvaag. “It’s what the Army wants out of you and you try the best at whatever they tell you to do.”

The tradition of military support at UD began as early as fall 1918 when the campus hosted the Students’ Army Training Corps. Military programs continued at UD until 1991 when a decreasing need for officers in the Armed Forces prompted UD to deactivate the ROTC program. After a 10 year hiatus, the current ROTC program appeared on campus once more. Today, the UD ROTC program is comprised of between 50 to 60 students a year.

The ROTC program’s primary purpose is to develop leaders through classroom study, hands-on training, and team building exercises. Students gain the leadership skills necessary to succeed in both the corporate and military worlds. A values-based program, ROTC focuses on integrity, personal courage, respect, and honor as the basic foundation upon which successful and competent leaders are built.

The newly commissioned officers will wear their uniforms at UD’s 165th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 13.

“I just want to thank the cadre members, my peers, and also the incoming class for working hard and having that motivation to keep going,” Adjei said. “Do not expect any reward. Everything that you accomplish will award you with itself. You just keep pushing.”

The 2017 ROTC Commissioning Class

  • 2nd Lt. Stephen Adjei (senior aviation management major from Worcester, MA) – Quartermaster, Active Duty
  • 2nd Lt. Natalie Cukale (senior criminal justice and computer graphics/interactive media double major from Aurora, CO) – Armor, Active Duty
  • 2nd Lt. Jessie Davis (senior criminal justice major from Graham, WA) – Armor, Active Duty
  • 2nd Lt. Austin George (senior criminal justice major from Camanche, IA) – Infantry, Active Duty
  • 2nd Lt. Cole Hamilton (senior aviation management major from Richland Center, WI) – Aviation, National Guard (WI)
  • 2nd Lt. John Heun (senior criminal justice major from Erie, IL) – Field Artillery, Active Duty
  • 2nd Lt. Michael Kassehin (senior aviation management major from Bettendorf, IA) – Infantry, National Guard (IA)
  • 2nd Lt. Austin McWhite (senior flight operations major from Orlando, FL)  – Engineer, Active Duty
  • 2nd Lt. Aaron Ofosu (senior business major from Worcester, MA) – Quartermaster, National Guard (GA)
  • 2nd Lt. Bernard Osae (senior business major from Bedford, TX) – Quartermaster, National Guard (TX)
  • 2nd Lt. Kaitlyn Velsvaag (senior criminal justice and psychology double major from Wiesbaden, Germany) – Military Police, Active Duty
  • 2nd Lt. Kirsten Velsvaag (senior human health sciences major from Wiesbaden, Germany) – Engineer, Active Duty