ROTC graduates enter leadership roles

Be strong and courageous.

Throughout their time as cadets in the ROTC Cyclone Battalion, this slogan has guided Derrick Hill, Trenton Speer and Anthony Stoll.

Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. in the South Ballroom, the cadets concluded their ROTC journeys and began new ones as commissioned second lieutenants in the United States Army.

Choking up at times, Lt. Col. Richard Smith, professor and chairman of the military science and tactics department, introduced each cadet with a personal memory.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said.

Second Lt. Derrick Hill, graduate in mechanical engineering, will go on to be an engineer officer. Second Lt. Trenton Speer, graduate in interdisciplinary studies, will be an infantryman. Second Lt. Anthony Stoll, graduate in industrial technology, will be a field artillery officer.

Stoll was given the Distinguished Military Student Award.

Smith introduced the guest speaker saying the ROTC program was blessed to have Jathan Chicoine, veteran services coordinator, and thanked him for including ROTC in the family at the Veterans Center.

Chicoine, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, said that he was honored and humbled to speak.

In his speech, he challenged the new officers to earn respect and to take in the advice of mentors. He emphasized the importance of the stories of elders.

“Those of you commissioning today will create, carry, and in time share with the next generation your own stories,” he said.

He told the officers that they are a part of something larger than themselves and they have people depending on them.

Chicoine spoke of his own time in the service, saying he misses the comradery, friendships, and sense of belonging and accomplishment. He advised the officers “seize those moments that have the potential to define the rest of your life.”

Following the speech, cadets took their oath of office, had their lieutenant pins fixed on their uniforms by loved ones, and did the “Silver Dollar Salute.”

This is a tradition in which a new officer receives their first salute from a noncommissioned officer of their choice and then presents them with a silver dollar coin.

This took place between two lines of army color guard members holding swords to form an arch.

Stoll was saluted by Veteran Aaron McNew, head trainer at The Factory CrossFit Ames.

“He led his squad out on the battlefield in Afghanistan and he was in the gym leading me,” Stoll said.

The gym, with its exterior painted like an American flag, is owned by McNew and J Winkowski, who were deployed together in Afghanistan and instill those experiences into their work.

“You can tell it’s a military-ran gym,” Stoll said.

The Factory offers free group classes for ROTC and the ROTC program offers cadets a discount on full memberships.

Stoll became a member on Memorial Day and has since gone regularly, building a friendship with McNew.

“I go there for the workout” he said. “But man, I like going there for the mental strength that you gain from it, the spiritual strength.”

McNew said the attitude they encourage prepares a soldier’s mind for combat.

The main lesson that Stoll learned at The Factory is that the mind will break before the body does, he said. He said the mind sets stopping points that the body can overcome.

“[McNew] doesn’t yell at you to keep going,” Stoll said. “He yells at you to break down those barriers. You look at those big long workouts and you think ‘Ok, I can do this. It’s going to suck. It’s going to be an awful time, but I’m not going to give up on this.’”

McNew said he hopes the confidence people learn in his gym stay with them.

“I just hope the overall impact is the intensity,” he said. “That you keep that intensity every single time with everything you do. The harder you push yourself, the greater achievements you’re going to accomplish.”

Stoll had planned to go to Germany with another cadet after graduation, but received orders to report to his post at Fort Sill, Oklahoma on March 2. This conflicted with his plans, so he decided to pick a spot on the map and go there.

“I spun the globe and put my finger down on it, and landed on Australia,” he said. “So I’m going to spend some time with family over the holidays then take a leap and go explore the world a little bit.”

He said he realized it was a rare opportunity that he was not tied down.

“Now that I’m free at this point,” he said. “I feel like I have to take this opportunity.”

Stoll said that being in ROTC in college has changed him and that graduating and being commissioned in a day would be a peak moment in his life.

Hill said that in his time in ROTC, he has learned to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”

He said he knows the responsibility that he will hold and expects to feel a change when he gets to the unit that he will lead.

“I’ll literally have their lives in my hands,” Hill said.

Near the end of his speech, Chicoine shared a quote his brother wrote for him prior to leaving for SEAL training at the start of his Navy career.

“There’s an extra reservoir of energy far beyond what a man thinks are his physical and emotional limitations,” he read. “Find it, and accomplish anything.”