Virginia Guard OCS commissions new officers

Four officer candidates enrolled in the Virginia Guard's Officer Candidate School receive their commissions April 22, 2017, at Fort Pickett's 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute in front of family, friends and Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers and leaders. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson)

Four officer candidates enrolled in the Virginia Guard’s Officer Candidate School receive their commissions April 22, 2017, at Fort Pickett’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute in front of family, friends and Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers and leaders. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Amanda H. Johnson)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s Officer Candidate School Class 60A was dressed to impress at their graduation and commissioning ceremony April 22, 2017, in the auditorium of Fort Pickett’s 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute.

“As Virginia OCS alumni, we expect your very best always,” said Lt. Col. Craig C.Worsham, commander of Fort Pickett-based 3rd Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. “Today I look forward to saluting you as newly commissioned officers. You have earned the right to lead Soldiers. Welcome.”

The four officer candidates completed the daunting challenge of the eight-week Accelerated OCS program at Fort McClellan, Alabama, to graduate and commission as officers in the Virginia Army National Guard.

The guest speaker for the ceremony was Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer, the Virginia National Guard’s Assistant Adjutant General – Army.

“To each of you, I want to say well done,” said Mercer. The officer candidates are a diverse small group consisting of two that played college lacrosse against each other, another was a Navy corpsman for the Marine Corps and Navy SEAL teams, and one spoke Ga, having lived in Ghana where he learned the language, Mercer said. “I can tell you from my own experience with a new lieutenant to come out of this program, that you are among the best prepared new officers in the system.”

Mercer reinforced the Army Warrior Ethos and Army Values built into every Soldier, complementing the caliber and ethics of the new officers and the Soldiers they would now lead.

Mercer then quoted George S. Patton, noting the quote was used in one of the officer candidate’s biographical summaries he read. “The Soldier is the Army. No army is better than its Soldiers. The Soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one’s country.”

After Mercer’s remarks, the candidates took to the stage in front of the audience of friends, family, Soldiers and senior leaders. They recited the oath of office with fellow officers reaffirming their oath in the auditorium, affixed their commissioned ranks upon their shoulders, and performed the time-honored tradition of a first salute to an enlisted service member.

The OCS Class 60A are as follows:

Second Lt. James L. Alvarez, of Alexandria, Virginia. Alvarez graduated from Virginia Wesleyan College with a degree in international studies with a focus in cultural studies and is pursuing a career in federal law enforcement and homeland security. Alvarez joined the National Guard, because of its “unique mission protecting both the Commonwealth and the nation.” Alvarez branched infantry and will serve as a platoon leader with Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Second Lt. Joseph L. Collins, of Knoxville, Tennessee. Collins graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in history. Collins was inspired to become an officer by two officers he served under during overseas deployments. Marine Corps Maj. Doug Zembiec, “valiantly led from the front and was a man we would have followed anywhere.” Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Peters challenged Collins to “never stop bettering” himself. Collins served with both officers during his military tours overseas. Collins branched armor and will serve as a platoon leader with Alpha Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment.

Second Lt. Benjamin D. Ganoe, of Newport News, Virginia. Ganoe graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a degree in history. Ganoe joined the National Guard to “commit to the defense of my country and its’ people.” Ganoe works for a Fortune 500 company, XPO logistics as a procurement representative. Ganoe branched infantry and will serve as a platoon leader with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Second Lt. Ethan M. Hodges, of Richlands, Virginia. Hodges graduated from Appalachian College of Pharmacy and began his civilian career as a pharmacist. Hodges hopes to “embody the definition of leadership by confidently influencing people and providing purpose, direction, and motivation.” Hodges branched engineer and will serve as a construction officer with the 1033rd Engineer Support Company.

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