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    RIANG Celebrates Milestones, Welcomes New Recruits

    In the wake of COVID-19, graduates everywhere have been unable to partake in traditional graduation ceremonies. The graduating class of 2020 has had a unique experience while finishing out their senior year in isolation. For some students, this experience was made even more unique with their decision to join the military in the middle of a global pandemic. The Rhode Island Air National Guard (RIANG) recruiting team decided to take action and ensure these graduates and new recruits to the 143d Airlift Wing (AW) got the commencement ceremony they had earned. On May 8th and May 10th, 2020, a team of RIANG members visited the homes of six high school graduates and one college graduate and presented each with a personalized certificate of accomplishment. The graduates were also shown a commencement speech recorded by U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Kimberly Baumann, Assistant Adjutant General, Air, RIANG.
    “Congratulations to our graduates and your families! You did it,” began Bauman. “In addition to graduation, you have all taken another important step to achieving your dreams in joining the RIANG, making what I believe is one of the best decisions of your life.”The idea to execute this ceremony came from U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Suzy Reyes, recruiting and retention superintendent with the 143 AW. “Normally, during this time of year we go out and provide our individual graduates with our Air National Guard graduation stole that they can wear at their graduations. The recruiting team also attends their recruit’s graduation which is a really special thing for us to do. We were missing out on that opportunity, I decided that I didn’t want this moment to go unnoticed and began formulating this idea to bring the graduation to them,” said Reyes.
    One of the graduates, Sophia Calderon joined the 143 AW as a personnel specialist with theForce Support Squadron and is graduating from Cranston East High School. “Not being able to graduate is very unfortunate and upsetting,” said Calderon. “Being able to walk across the stage and receive a diploma that shows all of the commitment that I’ve had the last four years is something that I really looked forward to. I saw graduation as more than just a ceremony, it’s a great way to end a great chapter of your life and I think it’s really sad that we’re not having a graduation, but life goes on.”Gina Vincent is finishing up her senior year at the University of Rhode Island. She is entering the RIANG as a radio frequency transmission systems specialist with the 282nd Combat Communications Squadron. Vincent received a Bachelor of Science in Marine Affairs, and she hopes to pair that degree with what she does in the RIANG for a potential career in maritime communications or in the shipping industry. “I think it’s really spectacular and special, it proves the testimony to what the RIANG is really about and how close knit we are. Them coming out and doing this for their graduates really speaks a lot to the organization. I’m very happy and proud to be joining the RIANG,” said Vincent. One of the graduates has chosen to follow in his mother’s footsteps and join the RIANG. Aidan Towner, a graduate of Westerly High School has joined the electrical power production team, Civil Engineering Squadron and is the son of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Shannon Pereira, non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of accounting with the 143 AW Comptroller Flight. “It’s nice that I get my mom to see me graduate, I don’t really care if anybody else sees me,” said Towner. Graduating high school and preparing to serve his country during this pandemic is important to both Towner and his mother. “I couldn’t be more proud of my first born son joining our unit. I’m full of pride,” said Pereira.
    U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kiara Pimentel, a member of the RIANG recruiting team, helped to travel to the homes of the new recruits to present them with their certificates and show them the commencement video of Brig. Gen. Baumann. “This is a huge opportunity for us to be able to support the kids, this is a huge milestone for them and being able to support them during graduation is amazing.” said Pimentel.The RIANG prides itself on helping members of the community, especially new members of the unit and providing that feeling of togetherness among its members. The letter “Y” in the 143 AW motto, “We Are RHODY” stands for “You belong.” This ceremony drives that message home and shows that each member of the RIANG, regardless of time in service, is extremely important and their milestones should be celebrated.
    The 2020 graduates and newest members of the RIANG are: Aidan Towner; graduate of Westerly High School, Daniel Thibault; graduate of Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School, Franklin, MA, Miguel Pallanan and Sofia Calderon; graduates of Cranston East High School, Kamron O’Brien and Austin Andrews; graduates of Coventry High School, John Pina; graduate of West Warwick High School, Alejandro Gallego; graduate of Cumberland High School and Gina Vincent; graduate of the University of Rhode Island. Congratulations to the graduates and good luck on their future endeavors!



    Date Taken: 05.12.2020
    Date Posted: 05.19.2020 11:36
    Story ID: 369780
    Location: CRANSTON, RI, US 

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