KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Fifty-five service members and civilians from throughout Regional Command – South received their college degrees from among 14 universities in a graduation ceremony held at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, May 28, 2013.
“I think they really got to experience a commencement,” said Kimberly Doherty, education services officer at Kandahar Airfield. “They got to have a real graduation ceremony. There were cheering crowds and a lot of audience support from their military families. You could tell by their faces they were touched by the ceremony.”
Several of the graduates flew in from outlying forward operating bases for the ceremony, where five master’s, 13 bachelor’s and 37 associate’s degrees were bestowed.
Brig. Gen. Scottie D. Carpenter, commander of the 311th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), said it was appropriate the ceremony was held following Memorial Day weekend because the graduates sacrificed so much to earn their degrees while deployed under hostile conditions.
“I look out there and I don’t see just graduates,” he said. “I see the boots. I see the multicam uniforms under the gowns. I see the will and drive of soldiers in a combat environment. … These are the future leaders we have to look forward to.”
Cpl. Billy Agbavon, a husband and father living in Tacoma, Wash., was scheduled to walk the stage with his class at The Evergreen State College in June, but was deployed to Afghanistan in February. The Togo native said the ceremony here was even more memorable because of its uniqueness.
“I feel very good to finish my bachelor’s degree. It was very difficult, but it was important to get it done professionally and for my family,” he said.
The graduation ceremony was only the second to be held at Kandahar Airfield, Doherty said. A similar ceremony was held last year with 30 graduates.
“This was much bigger,” she said. “The speakers were great and really had some keen remarks. All the speeches complimented each other. And to just see the smiles as they crossed the stage made it all worth it.”
Patricia Davis-Mullens, Education Services country supervisor, was also present for the ceremony.
Degrees were bestowed from 14 colleges and universities, including the University of Maryland University College, Central Texas College, Air University, American Military University, Columbia Southern University, Community College of the Air Force, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, The Evergreen State College, Liberty University, Pierce College, Southern Illinois University, Southwestern College, Trident University International and the University of Management and Technology.
UMUC had the most graduates with 20. Dr. Allan Berg, senior vice-president and overseas director, and Patricia Jameson, director of downrange operations, were present to present the awards to the school’s graduates.
Receiving associate’s degrees in general curriculum from UMUC were Spc. Lafe Altier, Sgt. James Andre, Petty Officer 1st Class Cowanda Bazile, Alvin Bryant, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Carson, Sgt. Joey Goyette, Spc. Tyrone Jones, Spc. Phillip Kimbel, Staff Sgt. Maylene Mateo, Sgt. John McDonough, Sgt. Antonio Namwong, Sgt. 1st Class Jarrett Orlando, Vineta Ramiqi, Spc. Vikki Santiago, Staff Sgt. D’Angelo Shaw, Sgt. Kendra Stone, Sgt. Ricki Vega and Staff Sgt. Chyna Williams. Staff Sgt. David Birchfield and Sgt. Phillip Valentine received bachelor’s degrees.
Fifteen associate’s degrees were awarded by Central Texas College to Sgt. 1st Class Stacie Guiendon, who spoke for the class during the commencement, Staff Sgt. Joel Arriacolmenares, Sgt. 1st Class Mark Brown, Sgt. 1st Class Spencer Colburn, Sgt. Anson Cordeiro, Spc. Charles Eldridge, Sgt. Sherroda Griffin, Master Sgt. Quarry Harris, Staff Sgt. Ricardo Padilla, Sgt. Ina Sadler, Sgt. 1st Class Alicia Thomas, Staff Sgt. Cleopatra Todd, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jennee Williams, Sgt. 1st Class Jay Winger and Master Sgt. Frederick Young.
Maj. Patrick Mills received his Master of Military Operational Arts and Sciences degree from Air University.
Cpt. Matthew St. Clair received his Master in Intelligence Studies degree while Sgt. Courtney Brown was awarded his Bachelors in Business Administration (Marketing) and Staff Sgt. John LaFontaine earned his Associate in General Studies from American Military University.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Gary Stone received his Bachelor of Fire Science degree from Columbia Southern University.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Balolong and Staff Sgt. Jessica Villaverde received their associate’s degrees from the Community College of the Air Force.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Diana was bestowed with her bachelor’s degree by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Cpl. Billy Agbavon received his bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College.
Staff Sgt. Eric Schenck received his bachelor’s degree from Liberty University.
Staff Sgt. Kristen Duus received her associate’s degree from Pierce College.
Sgt. Mark Tevis, Darrin Jenkins and Craig Ransaw received their bachelor’s degrees from Southern Illinois University.
Staff Sgt. Zachary Neithamer received his bachelor’s degree from Southwestern College.
Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Boyd and Master Sgt. Marion Epie-Alobwede received their master’s degree and Staff Sgt. Joshua Trainor received his bachelor’s degree from Trident University International.
Sgt. 1st Class Lisania Hernandez received her bachelor’s degree and Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Peacock received his master’s degree from the University of Management and Technology.