NIANTIC, Conn. – Soldiers from Connecticut Army National Guard and New York Army National Guard received their commission during the Joint Commissioning Ceremony of Officer Candidate School Class 57 at Camp Niantic in Niantic, Conn., Aug. 18, after completing three phases of training over the past 15 months.
The 18 soldiers from both states became second lieutenants after they completed training that tested their Army knowledge, warrior tasks, and ability to lead troops through dangerous missions. The purpose for this state consolidation is to provide quality training as one Army school system to ensure one standard of the execution of the training mission across state boundaries.
For one weekend a month these soldiers came together at Camp Niantic to learn the importance of being an officer. The preparation for those weekends consumed most of their civilian time, said 2nd Lt. Andrew Shetland, Griswold, Conn., a candidate with Class 57. The candidates had to prepare their own training as if they were the commanders for their troops. There were many late night phone calls, mid-month meetings, and general preoccupation with all things OCS that took away from our family, said Shetland.
The Officer Candidates came from many different units and backgrounds. Yet despite their differences, they all will be charged with the duty of leading the soldiers under them. This is something that 2nd Lt. Jay Russo, Clinton, Conn., said he fully accepts.
“I wanted to become an officer so than I can lead troops (successfully) through a deployment,” Russo said.
Following the more than a year of preparation and training, the Candidates finally sat in front of a filled room of family and friends as they received awards and diplomas. Commanders from the New York and Connecticut Army National Guard sat in the front of the room and shook hands and congratulated all of the new officers individually as they were recognized. Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy of the New York Army National Guard and Brig. Gen. Mark Russo of the Connecticut Army National Guard administered the Officer Oaths to the candidates of their respective states.
Second Lt. Andrew Shetland received the award of Distinguished Honor Graduation of Class 57 from Col. John R. Whitford, Commander of the 169th Regiment, based on his performance and peer reviews of fellow candidates. When presented the award, Shetland received a standing ovation from the audience, candidates and commanders.
“OCS is not an individual sport,” said Shetland during his address. “We pulled out together, determined our best course of action, learned from our mistakes, completed work, and accomplished the mission as a team.”
Shetland thanked his commanders, family and classmates for helping him achieve this honor. He offered advice and words of wisdom to the new class of officers as they proceed as leaders of soldiers and defenders of the nation.
“It is by taking care of our soldiers and consistently accomplishing our mission that we can go forward and make the Connecticut and New York Army National Guard an even better organization that our soldiers are proud to be a part of, that our communities know they can count on, and that people of our nation can rest at night knowing that they are protected by,” said Shetland.
Keynote speaker Col. Steve Gilbert of the Connecticut Army National Guard said he was proud to congratulate the Distinguished Honor Graduate, who he served overseas with, and the other Officer Candidates. He offered words of wisdom and explained the importance of the job the new officers are going to take on. The job will be stressful and time consuming but it is the most rewarding, said Gilbert.
A reception followed the ceremony where candidates joined their families for food and conversations. The candidates selected family members to pin their new earned rank of second lieutenant on to their dress uniforms. Commanders and non-commissioned officers shared stories with the candidates of their training experiences.
“Just because we are done with OCS, doesn’t mean it is time to forget about the most important lessons that we have learned here,” said Shetland to his classmates. “Rather, completing OCS means that it is time for us to take these lessons forward in order to achieve the final element of leadership, improving the organization.”
The next step for these newly commissioned officers is to attend their branch-specific courses and report to their assigned units to begin leading soldiers.