116th IBCT welcomes a diverse group of new leaders

Second Lt. Erin Noble is one of ten new lieutenants joining the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team after receiving their commissions from Virginia National Guard Officer Candidate School Aug. 22, 2015, at Fort Pickett’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. Noble will serve as the first female fire direction officer for Sandston-based Battery A, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th IBCT. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Second Lt. Erin Noble is one of ten new lieutenants joining the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team after receiving their commissions from Virginia National Guard Officer Candidate School Aug. 22, 2015, at Fort Pickett’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. Noble will serve as the first female fire direction officer for Sandston-based Battery A, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th IBCT. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

STAUNTON, Va. — Ten of the freshly-minted second lieutenants from Virginia National Guard Officer Candidate School Class 57 will report to the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to begin their officer careers after their commissioning ceremony held Aug. 22, 2015, at Fort Pickett, Va.

“The 10 newly-promoted second lieutenants assigned to the brigade are a diverse group with a wealth of experience,” said Col. William Coffin, commander of the 116th IBCT. “Having met them all and their families, I am impressed with their enthusiasm and eagerness to get to their platoons and lead Soldiers.”

Most Soldiers have the mind set of “just tell me what needs to be done and let me do my job,” said Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Perry, a platoon sergeant for Class 57 at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. The mindset of an officer needs to define “what needs to be done” and then provide purpose and direction.

The graduates endured a two-year program, during which they lost more than half of the candidates they started out with. During Phase I candidates had to pay meticulous attention to detail, focus on standard operating procedures and learn to work as a team. Those that continued on to Phase II were carefully evaluated on their leadership abilities as they rotated through leadership positions. Phase III took their leadership skills to the field as they were evaluated on leading squads and platoons through training lanes.

“I have confidence in every one of the graduates to lead and would rest easy if any of them were my platoon leader,” said Perry. “I encourage all my fellow NCOs that get the opportunity to work with these new lieutenants to take the time to talk to and work with them. They are ready to listen, move forward and do great things.”

“They all demonstrated the willingness to lead and the capacity to prepare their Soldiers to support the citizens of the commonwealth during times of emergencies and to deploy for overseas missions,” said Coffin. “Our commanders are eager to get them settled into their duty assignment our platoon sergeants stand ready to assist in the fine art of training young Soldiers. I am very proud to serve with them.”

Welcome the newest officers of the 116th IBCT:

Second Lt. Jonathan Bushnell, from Chesapeake, Va., graduated from Chowan University where he played soccer all four years. He is the head coach for the boys’ junior varsity soccer team at his old high school. “It is a great feeling knowing I can give back to kids and be a great role model for them,” he said. Bushnell joined the Virginia Army National Guard in 2012 and is now a platoon leader for Winchester-based Company F, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th IBCT.

Second Lt. George Fernandez graduated from the Art Institute of Washington in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in media arts and animation. The Falls Church resident worked as an animator/ illustrator at Stelor Productions, creating interactive web browsers for children. “To become a leader you must learn to follow,” said Fernandez. “I paid close attention to the character of the people who influenced me, and with their guidance, I’ve grown to have a positive outlook on life. I wish to share and help those around me to become great leaders themselves.” He will be the new chemical biological radiological nuclear officer at Winchester-based Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT.

Second Lt. Justin Field resides in Manassas with his wife and two children. After graduating from University of Utah Field became a Department of Defense contractor. “It is with great hope that I serve as an Army officer so that I may contribute to the well-being and security of our nation through meaningful and challenging duties. Field will serve as a personnel officer at Winchester-based Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT.

Second Lt. Darius Hawkins resides in Virginia Beach with his wife and four children. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Old Dominion and an master of business administration from Columbia Southern University. Before beginning OCS, Hawkins served nine years in the Army Reserves and Virginia Army National Guard as an infantry team leader and petroleum supply specialist. “I look forward to learning from experienced NCOs and teaching young Soldiers the Army values, leadership and the warrior spirit necessary to remain the world’s strongest.” Hawkins will serve as a platoon leader in Lynchburg-based Company D, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th IBCT.

Second Lt. Kyle Hughes, from Williamsburg, Va., played football at Virginia Military Institute and later received his bachelor’s degree from University of Oklahoma. Hughes joined the Virginia Army National Guard in 2013. “Being a person who like physical and mental challenges, I decided to join the best Army in the world and pursue and officer career.” Hughes will serve as a platoon leader in Winchester-based Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th IBCT.

Second Lt. Caleb Mast graduated with a bachelor’s from Liberty University in 2010 and earned his law degree from the university’s law school in 2013. The Florida native says his sense of patriotism compelled him to join the Virginia Army National Guard in 2012. “The Guard allows me to fulfill my duty to serve my country while being active in my local community.” Mast will serve as a fire support officer for Lynchburg-based Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 116th IBCT.

Second Lt. Erin Noble graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University. The Richmond resident received the Colonel James B. Moore, III, Award for showing the most progress during the OCS program. “I wanted to become an officer because I enjoy mentoring people and watching them grow. I love bringing a group of people together to accomplish a goal.” Noble will serve as the first female fire direction officer for Sandston-based Battery A, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th IBCT.

After graduating from law school, 2nd Lt. Hector Perez practiced immigration law in Seattle, Wash. The Arlington resident joined the Virginia Army National in 2013 as an officer candidate and received the Captain Harry Q. Rose award for his distinguished leadership throughout the OCS program. “The only greater honor than serving as a Soldier with our values, is to serve as a leader of those Soldiers.” Perez will serve as a platoon leader in Camp Pendleton-based Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th IBCT.

Second Lt. Gustavo SequeriaMercado is a Nicaraguan native whose family immigrated to the United States when he was 5 years old. SequiraMercado enlisted in the Army in 2001, transferring to the Virginia Army National Guard in 2004. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2007. The Alexandria resident graduated from George Mason University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in communications and currently works as a DoD contractor. “I want to set an example of what a Soldier should be and be the change I want to see. I want to empower my subordinates to make sound and ethical decisions.” SequiraMercado will serve as a platoon leader in the Winchester-based Company F, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th IBCT.

Second Lt. Steven Workman attended University of Oklahoma, earning his bachelor’s degree in 2003 and master’s in 2007. The Woodbridge resident received two of the six awards for OCS Class 57. He received the Leadership Excellence Award for receiving the highest overall leadership ratings from his platoon trainers and the Erickson Trophy for being the distinguished honor graduate of his OCS class. He will serve as a platoon leader in Hampton-based Company C, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 116th IBCT.