Fourteen newly commissioned Missouri Army National Guardsmen from Missouri's 50th class of Officer Candidate School. The graduates received their commissioning and were pinned with the rank of second lieutenant. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sarah E. Lupescu).
Missouri Guard's 50th officer candidate school class earns commissions
By Matthew J. Wilson
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - For the 50th time, the Missouri National Guard recognized a dedicated group of Citizen-Soldiers for completing its officer candidate school.
As members of Class 50, 14 Guardsmen graduated from the rigorous program that challenges both the mental and physical readiness of each officer candidate.
The 2nd Battalion, 140th Regiment Missouri Regional Training Institute's Officer Candidate School at Fort Leonard Wood produced 12 of the class's graduates through its traditional program, while two others graduated through the accelerated program from outside the state.
In the traditional program, officer candidates met for one drill weekend a month and two, two-week stints over the course of 18 months, while the accelerated program is completed in one continuous block of about three months.
To graduate from the program, candidates must have completed 90 hours of college credit, 645.5 hours of military instruction and hold a secret security clearance.
Retired Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, a member of Missouri Class 12, congratulated the graduates as the guest speaker.
"When I graduated from here, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me," Vaughn said. "It opened a lot of doors to me."
Graduating from Missouri's officer candidate school will create opportunities for these graduates, as it has for many other Missouri Guardsmen, Vaughn said.
"Look at what happened yesterday with Gen. Frank Grass," Vaughn said.
Grass, a member of Missouri's Class 19, was recently named chief of the National Guard Bureau and simultaneously received his fourth star.
"What that says is there have been a lot of people who have come along, sacrificed and worked hard and went on to do great things," Vaughn said.
Vaughn encouraged the new leaders to make sure their Soldiers are well prepared to serve.
Among the 14, 12 of those Guardsmen accepted their commissions to become second lieutenants. The remaining two will hold on to their certificates and enlisted status until they fulfill other obligations before they become officers.
Those accepting their commissions were 2nd Lts. James Allee, Nicholas Alexander, Cory Girard, Jason Greer, Joseph Lester, Jason Price, Robert Price, Joshua Rickly, Samuel Thomas, Robert Wanner, Adam Winters and Brittany Ziegler.
Those receiving certificates were Sgt. Jonathan Swyres and Spc. Joshua Scruggs.
"This class was a tight team," said Maj. Kenneth Huenink, commander of the officer candidate school company. "I have full confidence that they'll make good lieutenants and leaders."
Huenink said the class has been preparing to honor the 50th anniversary of the Missouri officer candidate school since October of 2011.
"The really unique thing about this team is that they had the extra responsibility of being the 50th Class," he said. "They had to try to find all the retirees and they took on a lot extra. They didn't have it easy for sure."
Several graduates were recognized with awards, led by Greer, who was named the distinguished honor graduate as the candidate whose overall class ranking was No. 1 based on overall criteria.
For his efforts, Greer also earned an Army Commendation Medal and the Erickson Trophy, named for Maj. Gen. Edgar Erickson, who was crucial in the establishment of the state officer candidate schools.
"It was very unexpected," Greer said of the honor. "The school was difficult for us all and we all tried the best we could on each of the events we had to accomplish. I had no idea I would be selected."
Greer, who lives in Gardner, Kan., said he looked at the honor as validation of his approach to being an officer.
"It solidifies that I was doing the right things and staying on the right track," he said. "I hope to continue down that path."
In a class that started with more than 50 hopefuls, Greer said it is amazing to be among the 14 who graduated.
"I had no idea that we'd have that large amount of people not complete the school," said Greer, who will serve with the 548th Transportation Battalion of Trenton. "We served with a bunch of our brothers and sisters that were phenomenal, but for whatever reason, they are not here with us now.
"But this class was great and the caliber of the people who graduated is phenomenal. I'd be happy to go to war with any of them."
Other awards included: Robert Price, who earned the Rock PT Award as the candidate who led the class in overall scores on the Army Physical Fitness Test; Swyres, who earned the Tactics Tiger Award as the candidates who exhibited exceptional abilities in the field training exercises and on the tactics exam; Ziegler, who earned the Leadership Award as the candidate who received the highest scores while in a leadership position and on the leadership exam; Jason Price, who earned the Neilson Rudd Award as the candidate who most embodies the Army Values in their lifestyle; and Scruggs, who earned the Staff Award as the candidate who was rated highest by the school's cadre.
In addition, Scruggs earned an Army Achievement Award.
"It's just an honor to receive these awards," said Scruggs, who lives in Cedar Hill. "It was a lot of hard work and I'm just honored to receive it."
Scruggs, who will go to the 1035th Support Maintenance Company of Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, said he is relieved to have graduated and is looking forward to new challenges.
"I'm very excited for our future," Scruggs said. "We get to work together with the best Soldiers in the Army."
The class response, the class's opportunity to address those at the ceremony, was delivered by Rickly, who highlighted the contributions of the 49 Missouri National Guard officer candidate school classes that came before class 50.
"That was a great honor - I really appreciated the fact that I was able to do that," said Rickly, who lives in south St. Louis. "It was something that I was looking forward to. I really wanted to give Class 50 a voice and recognize all the classes that came before us."
Rickly said he is anxious about returning as an officer to the 1035th, which is the unit he got started in as an enlisted Soldier.
"I'm really looking forward to it," he said.
There are four sources to commission officers in the United States Army: the United States Military Academy at West Point, The Reserve Officer Training Corps at colleges and universities, the officer candidate school program in the National Guard or at Fort Benning, Ga., and direct commissions for medical and legal professionals.
Officer candidate school was conceived in 1938 and implemented in 1941 at Fort Benning. Gen. Omar Bradley, a Missourian, is credited with developing the program to meet wartime needs.
Today there are 51 officer candidate schools throughout the Army National Guard and one federal program at Fort Benning. The program commissions 1,450 second lieutenants annually. This represents 27 percent of the Army's new officers each year.
The Missouri National Guard's officer candidate school began in 1962, graduating class 1 in 1963.
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Fourteen Missouri Army National Guardsmen swear in during their commissioning ceremony upon graduation of Officer Candidate School. The graduates received their commissioning and were pinned with the rank of second lieutenant. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sarah E. Lupescu).