CHARLESTON, S.C, (NNS) -- Sixty two Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) midshipmen were commissioned as Navy and Marine Corps officers at a commissioning ceremony held during The Citadel's spring commissioning commencement exercise, May 3.
The 37 Navy-option and 25 Marine-option NROTC midshipmen, Officer Candidates and Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEP) were personally recognized by Rear Adm. Kevin Donegan, director, warfare integration (OPNAV N9I), in front of an audience of more than 800 people before entering military service.
"It was great that instead of simply attending the ceremony, the families were able to be a part of the ceremony," said newly commissioned Ens. Clarese Neill, 24, from Sigel, Pa. "The ceremony validated to the families that all the hard work thus far has been in order to make one of the most important career transitions."
Neill's mother, Susan Neill, said watching her daughter be commissioned by the admiral was an extremely proud moment for her.
"The admiral's speech solidified for our family where my daughter was coming from and where she was going," Susan said.
Although numerous NROTC midshipmen will receive commissions over the next few weeks, receiving a commission from a rear admiral is a rare opportunity.
"Receiving their commissions from Rear Adm. Donegan in front of 800 people is an experience our new officers will never forget," said Lt. Matthew Smith, a naval science instructor with The Citadel NROTC unit.
During his commencement address, Donegan encouraged the graduates and newly-commissioned officers to be leaders.
"Don't worry about what leader you will be like," said Donegan. "Your actions will define the type of leader you will be. Ensure you find balance with time. As a leader will find your self very busy in trying to be the best leader you can be and lose track of time. Ensure you find time to read, to worship, for friends, and for family. You will need a support group and sometimes we lose the ability to balance those four."
Donegan congratulated the newly commissioned officers after administering the oath of office.
More than 460 students participated in commencement exercises, including the 62 NROTC midshipmen, officer candidates and MECEP members. Among them was Nathan Cintula, who after nearly 22 years as an enlisted service member, was commissioned May 1, and is about to embark on a whole new military career when most are considering retirement.
Cintula, 39, from Camdenton, Md., and a former chief boatswain's mate, had always wanted to be an engineer and Navy officer but as a 17-year-old enlisted Sailor he did not have the grades or study habits needed to excel. He took college course part-time over the years, and when just a semester away from graduating from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Technical Management, he applied for a slot in the very competitive Seaman-To-Admiral (STA) 21 program. STA-21 allowed him to earn an engineering degree and an officer's commission at The Citadel.
"The STA-21 program made a lot of sense to me because I get to start a completely new career, complete an engineering degree, become a commissioned officer, and continue to serve my country proudly," Cintula said. "My family and I are immensely excited to begin a new adventure, and my family is very proud of my service and academic accomplishment."
Other family and friends of the newly-commissioned officers also demonstrated how proud they were by giving the new ensigns and 2nd lieutenants a standing ovation immediately following the swearing-in of the officers.
Referring to the overwhelming support displayed by the crowd for the new officers, Ens. Dimitri Paspalaris, 22, from Jacksonville, Fla., said, "Four years, can't believe it's over. Goes to show you hard work pays off. Absolutely amazing!"
The NROTC program, overseen by Rear Adm. Dee L. Mewbourne, commander, Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) headquartered at Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., was established to develop midshipmen mentally, morally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, loyalty and Navy core values in order to commission college graduates as Naval officers who possess a basic professional background, are motivated toward careers in the Naval service and have a potential for future development in mind and character so as to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.
Mewbourne and NSTC oversee 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy. This includes the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) at more than 160 colleges and universities, Officer Training Command (OTC) on Naval Station Newport, R.I., Recruit Training Command (RTC), the Navy's only boot camp, at Great Lakes, Ill., and Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) and Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) citizenship development programs at more than 600 high schools worldwide.
For more information about NROTC, visit https://www.nrotc.navy.mil/. For more information about NSTC, visit http://www1.netc.navy.mil/nstc/ or visit the NSTC Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/NavalServiceTraining/.
For more news from Naval Service Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/greatlakes/.