Highlander Battalion commissions 12 new second lieutenants to kick off PC’s 140th commencement
Twelve new second lieutenants – including three from Presbyterian College – were ushered into the U.S. Army during the Highlander Battalion’s annual commissioning ceremony on May 12.
PC president Dr. Matthew vandenBerg reminded the group they are part of a tradition and a calling that few people will know or understand.
“Few of us can truly understand the sacrifices that you or your families have had to make, and are making, and are going to make throughout your career,” vandenBerg said. “I think even fewer of us can wrap our heads around the strength of your commitment to freedom and democracy. Fewer yet of us have truly come to appreciate the level of selflessness, the strength of character, and the depth of love for God and country that it takes to do what you’re doing.”
Choosing a military career presents unique challenges, but also rewards beyond measure, vandenBerg said.
“You’re going to learn skills that will make you a better person, a better citizen, and a better leader,” he said. “You’ll face adversity, but you’ll also get precious opportunities to fundamentally improve the world.”
Keynote speaker Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Jones, the deputy adjutant general for the South Carolina Army National Guard, told the new officers to pay attention to the “four Rs” – recognition, remembrance, and responsibility.
Jones said the first people to recognize are the members of the U.S. armed forces serving around the globe.
“They’re the best-trained and best-prepared military force in the world – and they’re a force for good,” Jones said. “And guess what? They are waiting on your leadership.”
Jones said the ROTC graduates should also recognize those who served in the past and the hard work that earned them their lieutenant bars.
“Congratulations on exhibiting the pride, the integrity, the courage, the dedication, and commitment to do all the things that are necessary to make their service your own,” he said. “And because of that, you stand today one of the less than one percent who are willing to stand up in uniform and protect our country. And make no mistake about it – your service is what’s going to keep us the land of the free. It’s what’s going to keep us the home of the brave. And it’s what’s going to keep us a beacon of hope in an often troubling world.
Jones also encouraged graduates to recognize family members and members of the ROTC staff whose support helped them become military leaders.
Jones also called on the new lieutenants to remember those who paid the ultimate price for freedom – dying while serving their country.
“They serve as a reminder of the true cost of freedom,” he said. “They serve as a reminder of the true strength of America. We honor them. And we need to make sure we do that every day. And how do we do that? We do that by going out and being the best soldiers we can be, the best Americans that we can be each and every day because their sacrifice commands nothing less than our best effort.”
Military leaders must also remember to serve the people they lead to make sure they make their way home safe and sound, Jones said.
The main responsibility of a leader, he said, is to understand the oath they take to defend their country and to simply “do right.”
“The oath is one of the most important public proclamations you’ll ever make,” he said. “It’s a legal document to guide your thoughts and your actions. … It’s a sacred trust that you cannot fail.”
Finally, Jones asked the newly commissioned officers to represent the Highlander Battalion.
“Maintain relationships with each other,” he said. Not only that but with Highlander graduates that come after you. Today you become the bridge builder. You are the mentors now, and that is your responsibility.”
Two PC students earned top honors at the commissioning ceremony. Cadet Payton Hibler, a junior from Simpsonville, earned the Capt. Kimberly Hampton Leadership Award, given in memory of Hampton, a 1998 graduate of PC who was killed in the line of duty. A helicopter pilot and one of the first female combat aviation commanders, Hampton was shot down and killed outside of Fallujah during the Iraq War in 2004.
2nd Lt. Gentry Hawk received the Wysor Saber as the Highlander Battalion’s outstanding senior cadet. The award is named in honor of Col. Robert E. Wysor, who served as the head of PC’s ROTC program following World War I. Hawk, a native of West Union, S.C., will serve in the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps following graduation.
PC’s other newly-commissioned officers included:
- 2nd Lt. Benjamin Bayles – Dudley, N.C. – Field Artillery, Active Duty
- 2nd Lt. Sean Fowler – Loris, S.C. – Infantry, S.C. Army National Guard