FORT KNOX, Ky. – On the Fourth of July, 3rd Regiment, Advanced Camp, cadets gathered in Waybur Theater for a very special occasion; end-of-camp commissioning. There, in the theater, commissioning cadets became what they have worked for through training: second lieutenants.
“This ceremony marks the culmination of years of rigorous and intensive academic, military, and physical training for the cadets seated before you today,” said 2nd Lt. Nathan Dawes, narrator of the event. “The corps has served as a test of their leadership ability and their potential to serve as commissioned officers. They have successfully emerged from this challenge, confident in their ability to assume the tremendous responsibility awaiting them as officers in the United States Army.”
On this day, 241 years ago, the forefathers of the United States signed the Declaration of Independence. This act essentially commissioned them as officers to lead the United States to its independence. Commissioning on such a day is not only memorable, but also symbolic for timeless tradition, honor and sacrifice.
After the national anthem, opening remarks and welcoming the family and friends to the event, the guest speaker, Col. Nelson G. Kraft, commander, 6th Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command, took the stage.
“What a day to be commissioned, the Fourth of July,” Kraft said. “Our Independence Day. The birth of our great nation. On this day, every year, Americans across the United States gather to display their patriotism and sincere love of our country. I can think of no better day to commission these Americans.”
He asked the audience to honor the veterans present in the audience. He also thanked family and friends for coming, stating that it was because of their support that the cadets, soon to be second lieutenants, were where they were today.
“You’ve already made a great contribution to our country by instilling in these cadets the value, discipline and hard work to the importance of service to our great nation. Your guidance and support has led each of these cadets to this singular moment,” Kraft said. “Without you, many of these cadets would not be here today. I’m aware of the pride and honor you must feel for these outstanding cadets who will be, soon, responsible for America’s most precious resource, the American Soldier.”
Kraft spoke about today’s world and how cadets have been trained to operate in a rapidly evolving environment.
“Chaos often defines the nature of today’s combat. It will be the duty of these commissioning cadets to make sense of it, to create innovative solutions to complex problems in a short amount of time with constrained resources. These are the skills necessary to lead an Army of tomorrow and beyond. These cadets, our newest officers, are ready to take that challenge,” Kraft said.
The colonel commended the hard work and the time commitment cadets have put forth not only through training, but also in school and in their work. He said that as the newly commissioned second lieutenants moved on into their careers in the Army, he had a few pieces of advice he hoped they would take with them.
“First, never stop learning. Read something about the world every day … If you stop reading today, then you stop learning. A successful career as an Army officer requires you to be a lifelong learner. [Second,] take care of yourself … Physical fitness enables us to be the best leader we can be every day … Third, accept responsibility. Who you are as a person, the kind of leader you’ll be known as, depends on your taking responsibility for your actions and the actions of your subordinates … The outcomes of those decisions are your responsibility to accept … Lastly, love what you do or why you are doing it or, better yet, do both. The easiest way to never work a day in your life is to always love what you’re doing at the moment that you’re doing it. Such a love will have you rushing to work each day, as if it’s your last chance to make a difference for our nation,” Kraft said.
Kraft congratulated the commissioning cadets and said he looked forward to seeing the excellent leadership they would bring to the United States Army. It was then that Kraft rendered the oath of office to the commissioning cadets.
After swearing their oath, the freshly commissioned second lieutenants were called up onto the stage one by one to receive their gold bars, their first salute and, finally, their commission certificate. Each step held significance and tradition.
The gold bars, “represent the rank of the officer and the honor of the recipient to hold a commission by the president of the United States … The first salute of a newly commissioned officer involving a silver dollar is a time-honored tradition dating back to the pre-revolutionary times. It symbolically represents the respect due to the lieutenant’s newly earned rank and position. The coin represents more than a dollar in currency; to every new officer, it has special meaning. It signifies the new officer’s deep sense of gratitude for the knowledge enlisted soldiers, especially noncommissioned officers, have passed on to them during training … the presentation of the commission certificate to the new second lieutenant. This certificate signifies not only a cadet’s promotion to second lieutenant, but more so, their status as an officer in the United States Army,” Dawes said.
After the ceremony, a few second lieutenants experienced a variety of emotions.
“I actually feel pretty proud of myself, because I went through a lot to accomplish this goal of becoming an officer of the United States,” said 2nd Lt. Keyla Acosta, Tarleton State University. “I’m very proud of my family who came all the way here to support me from Texas. I’m originally from the Dominican Republic, and I’m very proud to be from there.”
Second Lt. Jackson Lawlor, University of Notre Dame, shared his excitement.
“I’m just excited to join the best fighting force in the world and happy to do what I can on this Fourth of July to serve my country,” Lawlor said.
Not only did many share in the excitement of commissioning, but also commissioning on the Fourth of July.
“Well, we’re lucky enough to live in the greatest country in the world,” Lawlor said. “I think we owe it to those who come after us to keep it that way. So, commissioning on the Fourth of July is just a reminder of what we do this.”
“It’s actually a very special moment,” Acosta said. “I was actually talking to my husband, my mom and my friends about it. I’m feel proud about it because today’s United States Independence Day, and it’s actually a very special moment for me and my family.” During the ceremony, Acosta commissioned and had her husband deliver her first salute.
“Who else to choose from other than my husband? He’s always there for me. He has, being an enlisted Soldier, been able to explain to me and teach me a lot of things about the Army. And of course, he’s been supportive of me and been there for me all the time,” Acosta said.
As they move forward with their careers in the Army, second lieutenants offered some advice for future cadets.
“I think that you have to teach yourself,” Acosta explained. “You have to be physically fit to come here because, honestly, you walk everywhere, you ruck everywhere, and it’s really hot as we all know.
Acosta said cadets should train as much as they can before coming to CST, which will make their lives a little bit easier.
“And always have a good attitude because you’re always going to get annoyed by some people, but if you maintain your good attitude, you’ll be able to succeed,” she added.
Now, having completed Advanced Camp, 3rd Regiment second lieutenants are ready to take on the challenge of being officers in the United States Army.
Cadet Summer Training will bring 8,200 cadets through Basic and Advanced Camp this summer on Fort Knox. These camps are designed to help challenge, grow and improve various skills and leadership qualities within the cadets. If you think you have what it takes to be a cadet, or if you are interested in a job after college, click here.