BETHANY BEACH, Del. – Ten soldiers with Class 56 of the Delaware Army National Guard’s Officer Candidate School graduated from the 18-month course during a ceremony at the Bethany Beach Training Site, Nov. 2, 2013.
“Nowhere else but in the military can a young person be given the unbridled opportunities that have been bestowed on you today,” Army Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala said to the officer candidates. “The management experience that you will gain is priceless. It is highly valued, not only in the military, but in the civilian sector as well.”
Vavala, who serves as the adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard, also graduated from the state’s officer candidate school as part of Class 14.
“Forty-three years ago, give or take a few days, I was at the same place that you are in your career,” Vavala said. “I’m proof that you can go as far as your dedication, commitment, family support, and desire to excel will take you.”
Vavala emphasized that the graduation was not just significant for the newly commissioned lieutenants but also showcased the DEARNG’s “ability to produce ‘homegrown’ lieutenants right here in Delaware.”
Eight soldiers were commissioned during the ceremony; two soldiers plan to accept their commissions at a later date.
Army Maj. Jaime Wolhar, former training, advising, and counseling (TAC) officer for the Bethany Beach-based school, served as the guest speaker at the ceremony.
“This is an incredible complex time to be a leader. Sequestration, furloughs, reduced funding and resources, all the while you prepare your soldiers for overseas deployments and state emergencies,” Wolhar said. “Leadership skills will truly be put to the test due to these complex times. Leaders of today will need to be innovative, resourceful, highly educated and informed. Effective leaders will need to be engaged.”
During his speech, Wolhar re-enforced the importance of leaders who empower their noncommissioned officers, motivate those who they lead, and have the ability to take risks.
“Trust your instincts, listen to those who you lead, but most of all listen to yourself, trust yourself,” he said. “Your inner conscience will direct you to true north every time.”
Since 1957, more than 500 lieutenants have been commissioned through the state’s officer candidate school.
Notable graduates of the state program include Maj. Gen. Art Episcopo, former state adjutant general and civilian aide to the secretary of the Army; Gerald Brady, member of the Delaware House of Representatives; Ed Smith, Delaware’s former homeland security adviser; and John Wintermantel, former superintendent and co-founder of the Delaware Military Academy.
Class 56 graduates: 2nd Lt. Yelena Babinski, Melrose Park, Pa.; 2nd Lt. Eric Bosco, D'iberville Miss.; 2nd Lt. Jamente Cooper, Dover, Del.; 2nd Lt. Ryan Hastings, Wilmington, Del.; 2nd Lt. Teresa Krakowiak, Philadelphia, Pa.; 2nd Lt. Gbolahan Lawal, Silver Spring, Md.; Spc. David Mears, Georgetown, Del.; 2nd Lt. Piece Reilly, Newark, Del.; Spc. Allen Thompson, Smyrna, Del.; 2nd Lt. Christopher Watkins, Newark, Del.