FORT PICKETT, Va. — In a ceremony held Sept. 27, 2014, seven officer candidates enrolled in the Virginia National Guard’s Officer Candidate School Class 57B earned their commissions at Fort Pickett’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute in front of family, friends and Virginia National Guard leaders and Soldiers. The candidates started the 56-day summer accelerated program in July and completed the course in early September.
“You will do well, and I consider it a privilege to serve with you as fellow officers,” said Col. Thomas Morgan, commander of the 183rd RTI.
The accelerated OCS program is held primarily at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., and also includes a two-week training period in Niantic, Conn.
Brig. Gen. William R. Phillips, II, the deputy commanding general of the 29th Infantry Division, served as the guest speaker for the event. Phillips congratulated the Soldiers on reaching graduation and spoke directly to the graduating candidates and to the candidates from Class 58 who attended the graduation.
Phillips told the candidates that their future Soldiers will be wondering about them, if they can be trusted and if they can take of their subordinates.
“They’re going to be testing you, and they’re going to watching you,” Phillips said of the Soldiers the new lieutenants will lead.
Phillips also stressed the importance of earning both a military and civilian education in order to stay competitive among their peers and told the candidates to come up with a personal yearly training calendar in order to meet the demands of life in and out of uniform. Phillips also talked to the candidates about the decision making process.
“You will be asked for your opinion, and you have to fight for what you believe in,” said Phillips. “But when a decision is made, you also own that decision. Not all decisions are popular, but once that decision is made, it’s your job – you own it and you have to do all that you can to make it successful.”
In closing, Phillips told the candidates that, “the leadership in Virginia has 100 percent trust and confidence in each and every one of you, and they will continue to have 100 percent confidence in each and everyone of you going forward. It’s only through your inaction or your inability to want to do something where you start losing that trust and confidence.”
Following the remarks by Phillips, the candidates came to the stage and took their oaths of office, along with many of the assembled officers who renewed their oaths during the ceremony as well.
Awards were then presented for leadership, physical fitness and academic excellence, after which the candidates received their diplomas, had their new rank affixed to their uniforms by their loved ones, and received their first salute from a noncommissioned officer of their choosing.
The Physical Fitness Award went to 2nd Lt. Devin J. Mann who scored 297 out a possible 300. Mann, from Lynchburg, Va., served as the captain of his high school football team and currently works as an electrician and is pursuing a degree in construction management from Everglades University. He branched infantry and will serve as a platoon leader in Company D, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The Commandant’s Award for Academic Excellence recognizes the candidate with the highest academic average and went to 2nd Lt. Nathan M. Whitaker. Whitaker, of Chesterfield, Va., served previously on active duty in Japan, at Fort Bragg and Fort Lee and has a psychology degree from Liberty University. He branched quartermaster and joined OCS “to become a leader of leaders and to use his experiences as an NCO and his psychological expertise to be an asset to the Guard.” Whitaker will serve as a platoon leader in Detachment 1, Company A, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The Leadership Excellence Award goes to the candidate with the average highest leadership rating through OCS and went to 2nd Lt. Devin L. Peters. Peters has served in the U.S. Army, on active duty and as a reservist, for more than a decade. He served in the 75th Ranger Regiment as an intelligence analyst, and branched infantry. He will serve as a platoon leader in Company D, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The remaining OCS Class 57B graduates are as follows:
Second Lt. Ronnie J. Brown, of Charlottesville, Va.. Brown is currently attending Longwood University and studying education and human services and expects to graduate in May. Brown branched infantry and will serve as a platoon leader in Company A, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Brown wanted to become an officer “in order to motivate Soldiers and give back to the country.”
Second Lt. Randi J. Collins, of Norfolk, Va. Collins has a degree in international business and economics from Old Dominion University and currently works as a teacher for Faith Academy School. Collins branched military intelligence and will serve as a platoon leader in Company B, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Second Lt. Daniel T. Reininger, of Newport News, Va. Reininger has a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Ferrum College and currently works as a temporary driver for UPS in Fredericksburg, Va. Reininger has branched as an engineer and was inspired to join the National Guard by his uncle, who serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Guard. He will serve as a platoon leader in Company A, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Second Lt. Zachary P. Tishchio, of Ruther Glen, Va. Tishchio attended California State University and graduated with a degree in graphic design. He currently works as a police officer for the Henrico Police Department. He was originally a member of Class 56, but graduated a couple months after them in order to finish at the police academy. He branched armor and will serve as a platoon leader in Troop A, 2nd Battalion, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.