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Ole Miss ROTC Cadets to Become Commissioned Officers May 14

The 2014 ROTC Commissioning class
The 2014 ROTC class in the commissioning ceremony.

On Saturday, May 14, some twenty-five University of Mississippi Army ROTC cadets will take part in a traditional commissioning ceremony, accompanied by their instructors, family members, mentors and fellow cadets. For these cadets, it will be a monumental day that will mark the beginning of their Army careers.

Meet four of the ROTC cadets who will go through the commissioning ceremony this Saturday, May 14.

What does the commissioning ceremony entail and what is its purpose?

The commissioning ceremony comes at the end of a physically, mentally, and academically challenging college career. Most importantly, the ceremony signifies the cadets becoming commissioned officers and marks their transition from being officers in training to being true leaders of soldiers. The most important part of the ceremony is when the cadets raise their right hands and take their commissioning oaths and swear “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same,” This is a heavy responsibility, but after being instructed, tested, and assessed for years, the newly commissioned lieutenants will be prepared to accept the challenge.

What is the significance of the “Silver Dollar Salute?”

Though usually high in motivation and ready to take charge, new lieutenants are also usually low on experience. To balance this, the Army pairs its officers with experienced sergeants (NCOs) who help mentor and guide the young officers. This relationship between an officer and a NCO will ideally flourish throughout the officer’s career, and the Silver Dollar Salute recognizes this relationship. This salute dates back to the 18th century, when officers were provided an extra dollar each month to pay the NCO who was mentoring them. Though this tradition is now simply symbolic, it perseveres today nonetheless. During the commissioning ceremony, a newly commissioned officer will present a silver dollar to the first enlisted person to salute them. Often, this person is a family member or close friend who has served or is serving in a branch of the military.

What’s next for the cadets after they commission?

After commissioning, the crisp, new second lieutenants often have a few months to wait before attending their branch-specific Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC). At BOLC, they will be taught the skills they need to have in order to succeed in their respective branches. Some will become aviators, some engineers, some logisticians, some infantrymen, some other types of branches; though, nearly all branches are filled with at least a few of University of Mississippi graduates. Upon completion of BOLC, which takes anywhere from four to eighteen months (depending on their branch), the lieutenants who commissioned in Active Duty will go to their units which are stationed all over the world. National Guard and Army Reserve officers will be stationed anywhere across the United States, often in their hometowns. They take positions in these localized units and also use their leadership qualities in their local communities.

Unit Commissioning History

The University of Mississippi has a proud history of commissioning officers into the United States Army. The ROTC program at Ole Miss was established on March 11, 1936. At the time the program was founded, officer branch assignments, or jobs within the Army, were specified by school. For example, each officer that commissioned from the University of Mississippi was given a commission as an Infantry Officer. Today, however, newly commissioned officers are assigned a branch based on needs of the Army and soldier preference. In the 1980’s Ole Miss Army ROTC expanded when the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP) allowed students to be in the National Guard when working towards a commission in the United States Army. Since the installment of the Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP), the University of Mississippi has been consistently commissioning 20-30 officers each year. Since the first University of Mississippi commissioning ROTC class in 1938, over 1600 officers have earned their commission through the Ole Miss ROTC Program. The University of Mississippi’s 2016 commissioning class continues to add to the legacy incredible of Ole Miss ROTC. These new 2nd Lieutenants now serve their nation honorably, and will continue to be leaders throughout life.

Jonathan Dotson and Mitchell Nelson wrote this article. They can be reached via jsdotson@go.olemiss.edu and mjnelson@go.olemiss.edu.

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