Virginia National Guard commissions four new officers

Second Lt. Jacob Johnson receives his lieutenant bars during a commissioning ceremony held April 29, 2018, at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Johnson was one of four new officers to receive their commission following their successful completion of the Virginia National Guard’s Officer Candidate School Class 61A graduates his graduation from the Virginia National Guard’s Officer Candidate School with the pinning of his lieutenant’s bars. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Terra C. Gatti)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — The Virginia National Guard welcomed four newly-commissioned second lieutenants to its ranks April 29, 2018, during a commissioning ceremony held at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The new lieutenants were all graduates of the Virginia National Guard’s Officer Candidate School Class 61A.

“These four new officers have made a life decision,” said Lt. Col. Robert Fitch, commander of 3rd Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute, who provided the welcoming remarks for the ceremony. “They have reached a significant milestone and there are more milestones to come.”

Brig. Gen. Walter Mercer, Assistant Adjutant General – Army for the Virginia National Guard, gave the graduation address and told the new officers that being an officer was not easy. He talked about the Warrior Ethos and the Army Values and then provided the troops with three thoughts about being a good leader.

“Number one, good leaders are humble,” he said, explaining that they should be approachable, selfless and open to input in their leadership style. “Number two, good leaders care about the organization, but most of all about the people, the Soldiers and families. Always put people first. Number three, good leaders build teams. Set expectations, be clear. Establish trust and respect across your formation.”

Retired Lt. Col. Charles M. Clay served as the guest speaker for the graduation and offered the candidates four pieces of advice. He told them first to know their craft, to know and understand their specialities well enough to advise their leaders and to know when their subordinates are doing their jobs well.

“Second of all, know your responsibilities and master your lane,” Clay said. “People are counting on you to do that.”

Clay quizzed the officers on the first two points before continuing to the third, encouraging them to know their resources, including their people. He told them to use what they need and to find what they need and told them fourth point was to “know how to apply wisdom in all that you do.”

Once the remarks were complete, Mercer led the new officers is their oath of office. Then, one by one, each new lieutenant came forward to receive his certificate, shake hands with the official party before taking his place in front of the auditorium where family members pinned new lieutenant bars on the shoulders of each of the four Soldiers.

“You are charged with leading soldiers and with defending the country and our state from enemies both foreign and domestic,” Mercer said. “You’re our future.”

Second Lt. Jacob Johnson was first to be pinned. He joined the U.S. Navy when he was 19 and eventually completed a degree in Criminal Justice from Regent University during his six year enlistment. Following his time with the Navy, Johnson became a law enforcement officer and then joined the Virginia National Guard.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity and challenge of pursing a leadership position in the Guard,” Johnson said. “Obtaining my commission allows me to continue to exemplify the military standard and lead by example to the young men and woman who are going the first for our great country.

Johnson is branching military intelligence and will serve as a tactical intel officer with Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Second Lt. Aleksei Matel was second to receive his lieutenant bars and holds a B.A. from James Madison University. Matel joined the Virginia National Guard in 2013 to “broaden my experience and serve my country and community.” He deployed with Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to Qatar in 2015. Mate branched signal and will serve as an information systems officer with the 134th Cyber Security Company.

Second Lt. Abando A. Nkwanyou was third on the stage, and holds a B.S. and is currently working on a masters degree in Cloud Computing Infrastructure. Born in West Africa, Nkwanyuo came to the U.S. with his parents when he was 10 and previously served in the Maryland National Guard. He currently works as a Database Administrator for the Department of Treasury and has branched signal and will serve as a platoon leader with Fredericksburg-based Charlie Company, 229th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

Second Lt. Caleb Rawson was last to take the stage and attended Virginia Commonwealth University where he studied interdisciplinary studies. He joined the Virginia National Guard in 2016 and has branched military police. Rawson will serve as a platoon leaders with Manassas-based 229th Military Police Company, 1030th Transportation Battalion, 329th Regional Support Group.

“I want to be an officer in the National Guard to continue to better myself and those around me,” Rawson said.