Thursday, May 26, 2022

UM Engineering Senior Named Top 10 Army ROTC Cadet

Dustin Dykes (left) shares a proud moment with his dad, David. Submitted photo
Dustin Dykes (left) shares a proud moment with his dad, David. Submitted photo

A University of Mississippi engineering student is among the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s Top 10 graduates for 2017.

Dustin Dykes, a senior mechanical engineering major from Madison, Alabama, placed No. 9 on the list, outranking more than 5,000 other military seniors nationwide. Criteria included academics, physical fitness, leadership, and military and civilian extracurricular activities.

Dykes also has been awarded the Association of United States Army’s Army ROTC Cadet of the Year Award for 2016. He flew to Washington, D.C., recently to receive the $4,000 scholarship.

“I was overjoyed and very surprised upon learning I had been selected as the winner of the AUSA Army ROTC scholarship,” said Dykes, who after commissioning in May will begin active duty with the long-term goal of selection to the Army Aviation Corps. “I was surprised again a couple weeks later when I was informed I was among the top 10 cadets in the country.”

As Dykes called and texted his family to share the news, he was bombarded by congratulatory texts and social media posts from friends.

“It is a great feeling, having that kind of support from my family, church, ROTC and engineering friends,” he said.

It is an enormous honor for Ole Miss Army ROTC, which also had three other seniors in the top 10 percent of the graduating class, that U.S. Army Cadet Command recognized Dykes, said Lt. Col. Scott Walton, UM professor of military science and chair of Army ROTC.

“His outstanding performance in academics, physical fitness, leadership, and military and civilian extracurricular activities has been noticed and has served as an example for other cadets to emulate,” Walton said. “It has been an honor to mentor Dustin these last four years, and he will have a profound impact on others as an Army officer on active duty.”

A four-year Army ROTC National Scholarship recipient, Dykes maintains a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and is ranked No. 1 both in his engineering class of 88 students and among the 22 senior Army ROTC cadets.

“Army ROTC is something I knew I wanted to do fairly early in my childhood,” Dykes said. “Growing up as the son of an Army officer who flew helicopters, I easily had a role model to look up to. The great thing was my parents never pressured me into ROTC, and it was a decision I was allowed to pursue on my own.

“ROTC has taught me leadership, time management, and has provided me with a sense of belonging the past three-and-a-half years.”

Dykes’ academic achievements include being a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi honor societies, and he made the Chancellor’s List all seven semesters he has attended UM.

“I actually started at Ole Miss majoring in forensic chemistry, but early in my freshman year, I had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t my true calling and I wasn’t enjoying my classes as much as I knew I could,” he said.

“The one class I was incredibly passionate about was calculus. Combining that passion for calculus with my interest in aviation, I soon switched my major to mechanical engineering. It was easily the most important and positive decision I made in college.”

Dykes is shining example of leadership, patriotism and scholarship, agreed faculty members and administrators in the School of Engineering.

“Dustin Dykes has always been a model student and a model student leader,” said Arunachalum “Raj” Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering. “It is not surprising to see him as a model cadet also. As a former U.S. Army scientist, I absolutely believe Dustin will continue to be a distinguished member of the military in a fabulous career.”

Coincidentally, Dykes is not the first person is his family to attend UM and be nationally recognized for exceptional leadership in ROTC. David Dykes, a 1986 chemical engineering graduate and Dustin’s father, won the 1986 Hughes Trophy Award as the top Army ROTC cadet in the nation.

“Pat, a 1983 UM alum with a B.S. in accounting, and I feel blessed and are both very proud of Dustin receiving this recognition,” said David Dykes, program manager within Army Operations and Modernization at Science Applications International Corp. in Huntsville, Alabama. “He has put forth a tremendous amount of mental and physical effort to get to this point.

“In addition to his academic accomplishments, over the last three years, he has also trained with the German Army, graduated from the U.S. Army’s Air Assault School as the honor graduate and interned with an aviation battalion in Korea.”

Dustin’s older sister, Danielle Dykes, earned her bachelor’s degree in forensic chemistry from UM in 2013. The younger Dykes admitted to being a bit nervous joining Army ROTC at Ole Miss.

“I knew how much I had to live up to given my father’s achievements when he was at Ole Miss, especially as he is the only Ole Miss ROTC alumni to have won the Hughes Trophy,” Dustin Dykes said. “As a freshman walking onto campus, I immediately set the bar high and set goals I knew would be difficult to achieve, but that I would hold myself to.”

During his undergraduate tenure, Dykes said he achieved many of his goals.

“To be able to extend my father’s legacy, as well as that of Army ROTC and the Ole Miss School of Engineering, is an amazing feeling,” he said. “More importantly, I have proven to myself what I am capable of and what I have to strive for the rest of my time at Ole Miss.”

The elder Dykes said he understands his son’s initial mixed feelings.

“Much of my decision to pursue engineering and ROTC was based on my desire to follow my father and mother into an engineering career, and my father into the military,” David Dykes said. “I felt that an engineering degree would best prepare me to serve my country in a technical field such as Army Aviation or the Corps of Engineers.”

For more about the UM School of Engineering, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/. For more information on UM Army ROTC, visit http://arotc.olemiss.edu/.

Courtesy of Edwin Smith and the Ole Miss News Desk

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