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2023 Graduation and Commissioning

2023 Commencement Ceremony


VMI Holds Commencement for Class of 2023

Pride, honor, and dignity filled Cameron Hall as Virginia Military Institute held its commencement ceremony and conferred degrees on the Class of 2023 May 16, 2023. Thousands of family members, friends, and others were in attendance to witness the stirring ritual. Among the graduates was a chair set aside holding a brick representing the late Jamison Clark ’23, who passed away tragically in November of the class’s rat year. Clark’s brother rats carried the brick in memory of him to all the significant ceremonies throughout their cadetship and invited his family to the graduation.

Degrees Conferred to 306

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent, noted that the Class of 2023 matriculated August 17, 2019, with a strength of 515 members. From that original group, 306 graduated, and 53% of them were commissioned into the armed services May 15.

Wins spent his time at the podium reflecting on the class’s unique rat year. He lightheartedly recalled the football game when the Keydets scored 63 points, forcing the rats to do a record number of pushups after each touchdown. He reminded them of their Breakout on a cold, wet day in February, after which they formally became the Class of 2023. “Every cadetship is unique, and yours was unlike anything in recent memory. During 2019, there was fear about an ongoing viral outbreak plaguing college campuses—measles. However, this became an afterthought after what you experienced shortly after Breakout. COVID-19 arrived in the United States, and our lives changed forever. You are one of the few classes at VMI to endure the full effects of the global pandemic. You finished your spring semester in a virtual setting, and by the time you returned in August, none of us were quite sure what was in store,” he lamented.

Wins noted that the class faced many challenges, including turmoil about the VMI culture imposed upon the entire Corps, but what mattered was how they responded. “You let people see you as who you are—cadets of character who embody a code. Few others can come close to living up to that code; you did magnificently. You understand the importance of integrity; you stand against intolerance and hate. You embody humility and demonstrate a sense of humor. You have embraced the differences you arrived with and molded them into the strength of your class,” he said proudly.

The class returned to a more normal cadet experience with an in-person Ring Figure celebration and finished strong in the classroom, athletic field, and military training. “Even your ring is engraved with ‘through shared suffering,’ a reference to the unique set of experiences your class endured,” Wins commented.

Wins concluded his speech by congratulating the graduates and encouraging them to remember the important lessons they had learned. “The world needs and deserves principled leaders of character. I challenge you to serve the people around you. Become leaders in your family, your community, the Commonwealth, and the nation.”

Valedictorian Charged His BRs to Lead

Samuel H. Wolfe ’23, peer-elected valedictorian of the Class of 2023, stated that he, along with many others, was first drawn to VMI by the concepts of honor, courage, service, and a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. “However, after the countless parades, inspections, training, practices, the seemingly meaninglessness of military regulation, had our perspective of VMI become jaded?” he asked.

Wolfe conceded that VMI had been difficult for his class for many reasons. In addition to losing Clark, they lost others due to poor academic scores, loss of interest, financial struggles, and a few for less than honorable conditions. He lamented having to wake up each morning at 5:30 for physical training, followed by classes, long hours of studying, and other responsibilities demanding full attention. “But through the struggles, the Class of 2023 was transformed,” he said, going on to mention many class accomplishments. “In a couple months, one of us will become a Navy SEAL, another holds the third highest batting average in VMI baseball history, a couple continue hopeful journeys to professional sports, a couple were named the top Army ROTC cadets in the nation, one just completed a 24-hour run to raise funds for Operation Enduring Warrior, a handful of us will attend law school, a few of us are going to medical school, and a large number are going on to serve in the military.

“So, what’s the point? VMI teaches the one who will let it, to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. American theologian John Piper said, ‘You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them.’ Too many people in our generation do not want their lives to make a difference; they only want to be liked and to have easy, carefree lives. That is a tragedy,” he argued.

He mentioned Gen. George C. Marshall, Class of 1901, who lived his entire life under the constant pressure of innumerable responsibilities, and found little rest in life, and again asked, “Was that a tragedy? No! It would be a tragedy for us not to use the discipline we learned at VMI. John Quincy Adams said, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.’ America needs principled warriors, officers, and even fathers and mothers. Let us be willing then to be the leaders the nation so desperately needs. I wish you the joy of service and honor. I wish you the joy of making the choice to value others above yourself. God has surely blessed me with the joy of knowing you all. It’s been a pleasure and honor,” Wolfe concluded.

Wolfe, a biology major, graduated as a distinguished graduate with institute honors and a GPA of 4.0. Wolfe held rank and served as a member of the S2 staff, which serves as academic advisors to the Corps of Cadets, and for the 3rd Battalion. He was also cadet-in-charge for the Navigators Bible study. He is the son of Ted and Amy Wolfe. Wolfe was commissioned into the U.S. Army and received a waiver to go directly into medical school at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond. He will attend basic officer leader course at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.

"America needs principled warriors, officers, and even fathers and mothers. Let us be willing then to be the leaders the nation so desperately needs."

Samuel Wolfe ’23, Valedictorian

Commencement Speaker Gov. Glenn Youngkin

Cameron Cavanaugh ’23, president of the Class of 2023, shared farewell remarks to his brother rats in the form of a poem that was at times humorous, tender, poignant, and fully heartfelt. He then introduced the commencement speaker, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who challenged the cadets to ask themselves, “Who am I?”

Youngkin opened by sharing with his audience that the world is filled with unlimited opportunities and real moments that will challenge them to the core of their being; at every opportunity, choice, or challenge, graduates will stop and reflect, “Who am I?” He assured the graduates that they are fully equipped to confidently answer that question and reminded them of a few things.

“You do not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do,” he said, quoting the VMI Honor Code. “In a complicated world, could there be any more inspiring truth as men and women who live honorably? You live by a code that incorporates words like integrity, character, respect, and stands against prejudice, hate, and oppression that honors our great country, Commonwealth, Corps, family, and friends.

“You have gratefulness in your heart. At a time when the expression of gratitude has been replaced with a culture of entitlement, two of the most powerful words in the English language are ‘thank you.’ You place honor above self and are committed to being a servant leader.

“You are graduating from an institute whose mission is to produce exceptional men and women, like Jonathan Daniels [’61], and General George Marshall [’901], and G. Gilmer Minor III [’63], who captained the baseball and football teams at VMI, became CEO of his family’s business, [and] served the Commonwealth in many ways including leading the Council of Higher Education. Gil loved and served VMI.”

Youngkin marveled that the graduates will be whatever they resolve to be, from brave warriors in the armed services, to engineers, to teachers, to health care workers, to business leaders, to ministers. “Through all walks of life, you will forge a better, more perfect union because you are from VMI.”

To those who chose to enter the military, he said, “Collectively, you will be part of the greatest armed service the world has ever seen. You will dominate land, air, sea, and space—and, yes, remind us all that freedom is not free.”

Youngkin closed by saying, “You have worked hard, probably harder than any other students anywhere in the nation. Virginia is proud of you. Our nation needs you and will look up to you. The world will witness your talents and successes. Class of 2023, when you ask yourself, ‘Who am I?’ Stand tall, and answer confidently because you are a VMI graduate, and you will inspire the world.”

After receiving a standing ovation, Youngkin was presented with a saber from Cavanaugh on behalf of the Class of 2023.

Awards Presented

Three awards are traditionally given at VMI’s May commencement exercises. The First Jackson-Hope Medal for highest attainment in scholarship, accompanied by the Commander Harry Millard Mason Academic Proficiency Award, went to Wolfe.

Receiving the Second Jackson-Hope Medal for second highest attainment in scholarship, accompanied by the Colonel Sterling Murray Heflin 1916 Academic Proficiency Award, was Philip M. Argauer ’23, an electrical and computer engineering major with a minor in mathematics.

Wolfe also received the Society of the Cincinnati Medal for efficiency of service and excellence of character, accompanied by the Richard J. Marshall and Sumter L. Lowry Awards.

Commencement concluded with a benediction offered by Col. Bob Phillips ’87, chaplain, followed by Cadet Mark L. Shelton II ’24, the new regimental commander, relieving the Class of 2023 of their duties as they tossed their gloves in the air.

2023 Joint Commissioning Ceremony


VMI Commissions New Officers: History Made as They Enter Six Military Branches

Approximately 170 cadets commissioned into the armed services in the annual joint commissioning ceremony in Cameron Hall Monday, May 15, 2023. The historic day marked the first time VMI cadets were sworn into six branches: The U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard. The ceremony was livestreamed for family and friends who could not attend the event in person.

The five commissioning officers who administered the oath of office were U.S. Army Gen. Gary M. Brito, commanding general, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. William J. Bowers ’90, commanding general, recruiting command; U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Brendan R. McLane, U.S. Navy Naval Surface Force Atlantic; U.S. Space Force Lt. Gen. Philip A. Garrant, deputy chief of space operations, strategy, plans, programs and requirements; and U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Steven D. Poulin, 33rd vice commandant.

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins ’85, superintendent, welcomed those in attendance and thanked the ROTC departments, faculty, staff, family members, and guests who supported and encouraged the cadets throughout their time at VMI. He noted that the ceremony was the culmination of four or more years of hard work on the part of each cadet, a memorable moment in each of their lives, and the beginning of a life of service to the nation.

After Wins recognized veterans and current military members in the audience and thanked them for their service, he noted that over 100 years ago, the United States entered World War I, and by the end of the war, 1,800 VMI alumni had served.

“At the time, that conflict was referred to as ‘the war to end all wars.’ Sadly, that has not been the case. Conflicts continue, and since our founding, VMI graduates have stepped up to defend our nation each and every time. We must have a strong military led by highly educated and skilled officers, men and women of character dedicated to defending the freedoms that we continue to enjoy. The traditional concept of the battlefield is no longer confined to specific geographical areas. The nature of warfare is expanding into cyberspace; professionals from all services now wage combat with drones, robotics, satellites, and precision-guided missiles from ships, planes, and remote locations. As technology accelerates, these weapons become increasingly sophisticated, which demands adaptability, competence, wisdom, and courage from the very best leaders. You have developed the foundation based on these skills during your years of study here at VMI,” said Wins.

More than 35 years ago, Wins made the decision to commission. “And just like you, I was sworn in as a young officer and became part of a great team of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and service families. You, too, will come to cherish the same experience,” he stated.

Wins congratulated each cadet on attaining their commission and told them the Institute could not be prouder. “The profession you have chosen will be challenging, but don’t lose focus. Take heart, knowing you are following in the footsteps of many alumni that have gone before you to live a life of service to our nation. Our country is fortunate to have citizen soldiers and leaders like yourselves. Good luck to each of you in the years ahead, and please stay in touch.”

He introduced the five officers participating in the commissioning ceremony, stating, “These five outstanding officers illustrate one of the great strengths of the United States military. Members of our professional offices come from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and universities from all across the country. We are honored by their presence and very grateful to welcome them to deliver the commissioning of today.”

“The profession you have chosen will be challenging, but don’t lose focus. Take heart, knowing you are following in the footsteps of many alumni that have gone before you to live a life of service to our nation."

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins '85, VMI superintendent

U.S. Army Gen. Gary M. Brito Commissions 109

Brito was introduced by Col. Scott Brannon, VMI professor of military science and department head, and opened his address by asking the future Army officers, “Are you ready to lead?” To which he received a loud and enthusiastic affirmative reply.

Brito started by thanking the cadre of the Army, Navy, and Air Force programs at VMI. “Your professionalism and commitment to deliver world-class training and leader development made today possible for all of our future officers.” He also thanked the families for entrusting their sons and daughters to VMI and to the military.

Brito shared with the cadets that the military exists to fight and win the nation’s wars all around the world. “The Army needs you to be the best you can be. It needs your energy, your passion, and your drive. It needs your commitment, and now more than ever, it needs you to lead, to be innovative and caring for the young men and women under your charge.”

He revealed that he has been in the Army for over 36 years, and a lot has changed. “What has not and should never change is that the Army is in the people business. Even though the force has modernized at a rapid pace, people are still our greatest strength, the most important component of what makes the military successful and well respected.”

Brito highlighted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of an all-volunteer U.S. military, which is the envy of the world.

He closed by offering some basic advice to the commissioning officers. “Every day, wake up and choose a ‘can-do attitude.’ Control your character, your reputation, and your fitness. Trust your noncommissioned officers and build relationships with them. Take care of your troops, and they will take care of you. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Always seek self-improvement and never stop learning; show respect and promote decency; have fun and enjoy the journey; maintain a healthy work/life balance.”

He then administered the oath of office to 109 cadets, commissioning them as second lieutenants.

According to Capt. Colin J. Reynolds, assistant professor of military science, four commissioning officers stand out as exceptional leaders: Janine H. Colantonio ’23, Austin R. Gonzalez ’23, Garrett E. Petruskie ’23, and Richard “Brad” Wagner ’23. “They are each a distinguished military graduate, a distinction reserved for the top 20% of all cadets in the nation, and they each excelled in academic, physical, and military proficiency,” said Reynolds.

Colantonio, from Berryville, Virginia, served as Company D commander, majored in psychology, and graduated with distinction. “I am very thankful for the Army department and the Ranger Challenge team who helped build me into the person I am today,” said Colantonio. She was pinned by her sisters, Kristin Colantonio and Jennifer Ager, and received her first salute from her rat, Susan Hickman ’26. Colantonio reports to Fort Moore, Georgia, for Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course.

Gonzalez, who served as Company H commander and majored in international studies with a minor in Spanish, received the Colonel Thomas St. John Arnold Award this year and was a distinguished graduate. He is from Haymarket, Virginia. “I do not believe there is any place on earth that could have better prepared me to enter the Army as a commissioned officer. I thank the Institute and the Army ROTC Blue Ridge Battalion for being some of the best teachers I have ever known,” said Gonzalez. He was pinned by his parents, Michelle and retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Gonzalez and received his first salute from his father. In June, Gonzalez reports to Fort Novosel, formerly known as Fort Rucker, in Dale County, Alabama, for Army Aviation Basic Officer Leader Course, followed by Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape school.

Petruskie, a civil engineering major from Colonial Beach, Virginia, served as regimental S7 captain, in charge of morale, welfare, and recreation. “VMI has given me the knowledge and the confidence to lead as a commissioned officer,” said Petruskie. His father, Brian Petruskie, DVM, who was a captain in the Texas National Guard and Reserve, swore him in, and Petruskie received his first salute from his 91-year-old grandfather, George Allebach, who was a corporal in the Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War. As an armor officer, Petruskie will report to Basic Officers Leader Course in June.

Wagner, from Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, served as Company A commander and was operations sergeant as a 2nd Class cadet and a cadre corporal as a 3rd Class cadet. He also served as an EMT as both a 3rd and 2nd Class cadet. He majored in economics and business with a concentration in global business and graduated with distinction. “I am very blessed and honored to share this experience with all the other great men and women in my class. For it is them who have made this experience truly worthwhile and hold so much value,” said Wagner. He was pinned by his dyke, Lt. Andrew Ladi IV ’20, and received his first salute from Sgt. Maj. Tom Sowers. He was commissioned as a finance officer in the Minnesota National Guard and reports to the 247th Financial Management Support Detachment, part of the 347th Regional Support Group, as a platoon leader in June.

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. William J. Bowers ’90 Commissions 15

Bowers was introduced by Col. Travis Homiak ’95, commanding officer of Naval ROTC. Bowers talked about the oath of office that the cadets were about to take, specifically, the part that refers to “bearing true faith and allegiance” to the U.S. Constitution.

“Bearing true faith, especially to Marines, comes intuitively—‘Semper Fidelis’—we’re always faithful to our country, our Corps, and to each other. Allegiance means being part of something bigger than ourselves, being part of the ideals of what this country was built on, the Constitution.”

He described the preamble of the Constitution as “the greatest mission statement ever written” and went through “the five Ws” of the preamble: Who, what, when, where, and why.

“The Who is ‘We the People of the United States.’ The Why is ‘In order to form a more perfect union.’ The What is ‘to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare.’ The Where is wherever they are, all over the world. They will be global representatives of this country, for our allied partners, and for the citizens of the world. When: For all time.” Bowers conceded that it is a tall order but encouraged the cadets that what they have accomplished at VMI prepared them well.

“You’ve demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, and the ability to lead and gain the respect of your peers. You’ve shown grit, determination, and resiliency. You’ve overcome adversity and, most importantly, lived under an uncompromising honor system. You all have what it takes to lead the young men and women volunteering to serve our country in the armed forces of the United States.”

Homiak cited two outstanding officers of the 14 cadets he commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Marine Corps: Jack Mion ’23 and Blake Smith ’23.

“During their time as cadets, they challenged themselves academically, physically, and in leadership roles—excelling across all three areas. They took full advantage of what VMI offers in terms of a unique educational and leadership experience. It will be exciting to see them develop as junior officers. No matter what course they choose to take, I’m certain that they will have a huge impact,” said Homiak.

Mion, a civil engineering major from Glenville, New York, served as executive officer of Company G.  “It has been a very eventful and fast four years here at VMI. The Institute turned me into the person I am today, for which I am forever grateful. I developed as a leader, earned a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps, and made many friends along the way. I will miss this place but I am excited to see where this next chapter takes all of us. Rah ’23!” said Mion.

He was pinned by his father, retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Farren Mion, and his mother, Kathy Mion. He received his first salute from his father. Mion will report to The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, in October.

Smith, of Crozier, Virginia, served as regimental commander and majored in economics. He was this year’s recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Cadet Award, presented to a 1st Class cadet who emulates and practices the qualities exemplified by MacArthur.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Brendan R. McLane Commissions 20

Homiak also introduced McLane, who shared that he is the grandson of a Class of 1936 VMI alumnus. He told those about to be commissioned, “This is a great moment that you will remember for the rest of your lives. Savor it and be grateful. You are joining an elite force in a time when our nation needs you the most.” He quoted former U.S. President John F. Kennedy by saying, “Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, ‘I served in the United States Navy.’”

McLane continued by telling the future ensigns they “have all voluntarily joined a select group and assume a great deal of responsibility. Everyone commissioned here today has volunteered to serve, and that service comes with hard work, responsibility, and obligation. Consequently, in order to guarantee the freedom of our citizens, you give up a great deal. In return, you will receive the priceless gift of adventures you will tell stories about for the rest of your lives. You will work hard and have the satisfaction of a job well done. Remember all those who have gone before you and who served with honor. You are answering the call of this great nation.” He thanked them for their dedication and willingness to serve. He then administered the oath of office to 20 cadets, commissioning them as ensigns.

Homiak cited two outstanding cadets entering the Navy: Alex Feher ’23 and London Yerasimides ’23. “Each represents the best that the Institute and the Naval ROTC program have to offer. I am proud to see them achieve their goal of graduating VMI and commissioning into the naval services,” Homiak said.

Feher, from Midlothian, Virginia, served as vice president for investigations for the Officer of the Guard Association and midshipmen battalion commander and earned an outstanding score on the Navy physical readiness test. He performed in the pipe band and the Commanders jazz band. He majored in biology and minored in chemistry with a 3.82 GPA and was a distinguished graduate. He was this year’s recipient of the Lieutenant Mark R. Wilson, Sr. Midshipman Award.

Yerasimides, from Prospect, Kentucky, served as Company F commander, as captain of the swimming and diving team, and on midshipman battalion staff. Yerasimides made an outstanding score on the Navy physical readiness test and received one of the three intercollegiate sports awards. She majored in psychology, minored in national security, and was a distinguished graduate with institute honors and a 3.82 GPA. “VMI has given me the unique opportunity to learn my own leadership style, but also gave me room to fail and learn from my mistakes,” said Yerasimides. “The Navy ROTC has given me the tools in order to be a successful Naval officer and allowed me the freedom to find my own path.”

She was pinned by her father, stepmother, brother, and sister. She received her first salute from her rat, Sarah Woosley ’26. In August, she will report to San Diego, California, for her first school to become a Surface Warfare Officer.

U.S. Space Force Lt. Gen. Philip A. Garrant Commissions 21

Garrant was introduced by Col. Nichole K.A. Scott, commanding officer of Air Force ROTC.

Garrant began his talk by asking the cadets, “Will you be able to meet the expectations and requirements to well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office you are about to enter?” He explained that, like all uniformed services, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force each have a set of core values to help execute those duties. “They are character, which lays the foundation of trust and teamwork; connection, all members are connected with a common purpose greater than ourselves; commitment to ourselves and our profession; and courage to persevere despite adversity and take on challenges. Courage empowers us to take necessary personal or professional limits, make decisions which may be unpopular, and admit our mistakes,” said Garrant.

Garrant administered the oath of office to and commissioned 21 cadets as second lieutenants, 18 into the U.S. Air Force, and three into the U.S. Space Force.

According to Scott, three officers stood out: Josephine Freeman ’23, Fatoumata Diallo ’23, and Philip Argauer ’23.

“Freeman has been a standout leader, resulting in being a distinguished graduate. Her maturity, tenacity, dedication, and fierceness have led our detachment to the next echelon. She has held multiple roles, from Wing Exec, responsible for 233 cadets, to Squadron Dir of Ops, to holding rank. She’s done this while earning a double major and making the dean’s list every semester. She was hand-selected as a cadet chaplain, studied abroad in Morocco, volunteered at the library, and is a VMI color guard leader. She will be commissioned as a space operator into the U.S. Space Force,” said Scott. Freeman is from Warrenton, Virginia.

“Diallo, from Secaucus, New Jersey, is also a distinguished graduate. She majored in French and international studies.  She was hand-selected as the Delta vice commander to train 184 Air Force ROTC cadets. She was commissioned as an intelligence officer into the Air Force,” shared Scott.

“Argauer was selected in the first round to be a helicopter pilot, and only a few in the nation were chosen for this highly competitive program. He has held numerous leadership positions in the Air Force ROTC and in the VMI Corps of Cadets. Argauer is also a distinguished graduate,” Scott said. Argauer is from Vienna, Virginia.

U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Steven D. Poulin Commissions Four

Poulin was introduced by U.S. Coast Guard Capt. John J. Driscoll ’92, Office of Cutter Forces chief.

Poulin shared that he is proud of the tradition of the Coast Guard and pleased that VMI has begun commissioning officers into the branch; he looks forward to growing the relationship with the Institute.

“For 233 years, the USCG has protected ports, both at home and abroad, in peacetime and in conflict. The United States is a maritime nation, and so our faith is inextricably linked to the sea. That makes the Coast Guard a unique instrument of national power. We are a military service, we’re a proud contributor to the joint force, and we fight alongside our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. We’re also a law enforcement agency, a regulatory agency, and a lifesaving agency. We uphold the rule of law and enable the nation’s economic prosperity,” he said.

Poulin administered the oath of office to four cadets, commissioning them as second lieutenants. This is the first year in VMI history that cadets have received active-duty direct commissions to the U.S. Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, unlike the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Space Force, which fall under the Department of Defense. The U.S. Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy. The Coast Guard does not offer a ROTC program like the other branches but instead offers Auxiliary University Programs for cadets interested in commissioning upon graduation.

According to Command Sgt. Maj. Suzanne Rubenstein, director of cadet activities and VMI liaison for the AUP, all the USCG cadets have done remarkably well this inaugural year. Aidan Simmons ’23, an international studies major from Aldie, Virginia, who also served as the AUP unit commander, and Sarah Robertson ’23, a computer science major from Richmond, have been instrumental in keeping the AUP running smoothly.

“It is such an honor to be the first Coast Guard cadets in the Joint Commissioning Ceremony. I feel immense pride knowing that all our hard work over the last few years has paid off,” Robertson said. She will be sworn in by Lt. j.g. Madeline Cordle ’20. Robertson will be pinned by her mother, Sharron Robertson, and her rat, Avan Johnson ’26. She will receive her first salute from Joyce Ellis ’24. Robertson will be a deck watch officer on the USCGC Douglas Denman in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Simmons served as second platoon lieutenant for Company G, team lead for the Rat Disciplinary Committee, and cadet in charge of the boxing club. He also won the championship in his division at the United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association National Tournament held recently in Cocke Hall.

“This historical event shows that VMI is constantly advancing its structure and programs to accommodate for cadets and the world around us,” said Simmons.

Simmons was pinned by his family and boxing club coach, Joe Shafer, and received his first salute from retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Darrin DeCoster. He reports as an enforcement management officer to Sector Maryland-National Capitol Region, which protects the Chesapeake Bay region.

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