‘Ready for responsibility’

Written by  //  August 20, 2011  //  Feature Stories

Florida Army National Guard’s newest officers graduate during military ceremony

CAMP BLANDING JOINT TRAINING CENTER, Fla. (Aug. 20, 2011) – Twenty-six Florida National Guard Soldiers accepted the challenge to serve as the next generation of Army officers, as they pinned on the gold bars of second lieutenants during a ceremony this morning in north Florida.

Twenty-six Florida Army National Guard Officer Candidate School (OCS) graduates prepare to take the Oath of Officer and swear-in as second lieutenants during a graduation ceremony at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Aug. 20, 2011. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

The Soldiers graduated from the Florida Army National Guard Officer Candidate School (OCS) program during the ceremony held at the Kennedy Bullard Armory at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. Twenty-four of the graduates completed the 14-month Florida OCS program that mirrors the curriculum of the U.S. Army active duty course, while two of the Soldiers participated in an accelerated eight-week officer candidate class.

This year’s class – Class Number 50 – began with nearly 45 candidates, but only 26 completed the grueling academics and physical challenges of the course.

The new second lieutenants will serve in leadership positions in Army National Guard units throughout the state. Some will become full-time military members with the Guard while others will perform their traditional Guard role by attending monthly unit training.

Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw called the graduation a “major milestone” in the careers and lives of the lieutenants, and asked them if they were “ready for this awesome responsibility” of serving as Army officers.

“I think you are,” he affirmed. “I am confident that our selection and training processes have yielded the best possible leaders for our immediate and future challenges.”

Titshaw noted that Florida’s OCS program – which is now in its 50th year – has produced 46 colonels and six generals. Since the Florida OCS program began in 1961, nearly 2,000 second lieutenants have graduated from the leadership course.

“I laud your dedication in pursuing this noble goal,” the general added.

2nd Lt. Zachary Tedder (right) accepts the Erickson Trophy Award from Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw during the Florida Army National Guard Officer Candidate School graduation at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Aug. 20, 2011. Tedder was given the award for being the class' distinguished graduate who distinguished himself with the highest overal average in leadership, academics and physical fitness. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

Second Lt. Zachary Tedder was named the class’ Distinguished Graduate and was presented the Erickson Trophy award by the Adjutant General for attaining the highest overall average in leadership, academics and physical fitness.

“The rigors of this program have sharpened our swords, the trials of OCS have hardened our shields, and the training has strengthened our will to fight,” Tedder said, calling the program a “brutal 18-month crucible which tests the faith and wills of all those involved.”

Other graduates receiving accolades during the graduation were: 2nd Lt. Mery Downing, Association of the United States Army Leadership Award; 2nd Lt. Adam Kapetanis, Florida National Guard Officer Association Academic Award; and 2nd Lt. Erik Vidal, Physical Fitness Award.

This year the Florida OCS program presented its first Distinguished Alumni Award to the mother of former Florida OCS graduate Maj. Rocco Barnes. Barnes, who served in the Florida Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 20th Special Forces Group, and later in the California National Guard, died in Afghanistan while participating in Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009.

The graduates represented communities throughout Florida. The candidates from Class 50 and their hometowns are: David Arnett, St. Johns; Naisha Baron, Gibsonton; Kent Berus, Ponte Vedra Beach; Stephen Brown, Riverview; Trevor Chase, Jacksonville; Brian Dahlstrom, Mt. Dora; Mery Downing, Jacksonville; William Dozier, Fernandina  Beach; Eduardo Figueroa, Orlando; Matthew Flashenburg, Seminole; Andrew Gaden, Edgewater; Adam Kapetanis, Orlando; Kyle Kettinger, Wesley Chapel; Juan Maldonado Jr., Melbourne; Jose Martinez, Pinellas Park; Micheil McElvey, Tampa; Christopher Middleton, Pomona Park; Elkin Parrales, St. Augustine; Tory Perfetti, Oldsmar; Patrick Rubly, Tampa; Jeremy Sockwell, Winter Garden; Zachary Tedder, Ft. Myers; Tumeka Turner, Tampa; and Erik Vidal, Miami.

The graduates from the accelerated class were: Jeffery Negrotto, Milton; and Jason Schwartz, Oviedo.