By STEVEN NALLEY
Much has changed since Norman Williamson was sworn in to Mississippi State University’s ROTC program in 1967.
Back then, the Army still consisted of draftees, Williamson said, and his ascent to the rank of Army colonel coincided with an often challenging transition to an all-volunteer army. Training and tactics have changed as well, he said, but a few facets of the army have not: The Army is made up of people, the populace has high expectations for those people’s conduct and, as such, the Army needs strong leadership.
“What you have to do is be able to bring them all together,” Williamson said. “You have to understand goals and objectives. You must motivate and get buy-in, and then measure progress.”
Williamson swore in new members of the MSU Army ROTC Thursday at the Chapel of Memories, setting them on a course to become the army’s future officers and leaders.
Maj. Tommy Cardone, a professor of military science with MSU’s ROTC, said Thursday’s inductees, together with those who will be inducted during the spring semester, form a class of 20 with an average GPA of 3.25. He said the inductees’ path ahead would be difficult but rewarding.
“I want to let you know you’re starting on a road that’s not easy,” Cardone said. “Nothing will satisfy you in life like being a leader and seeing those under you grow. You are at the beginning of that leadership challenge.”
Maj. Rodney Bowman, an assistant military science professor with MSU’s ROTC, said the contracting ceremony represents the cadets’ commitment to serving their country in the U.S. Army. As such, he said, the ceremony was significant not only for the students, but also for the country.
“Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the military,” Bowman said, “and 1 percent of those will achieve what these kids achieve by becoming officers.”
One of the inductees, Kealy Moriarty, said she was already a member of the U.S. National Guard before joining the ROTC, and she sees the ROTC as a stepping stone to a better future. She said she comes from a long line of U.S. soldiers.
“My dad was an officer in the navy, an F-18 (pilot),” Moriarty said. “My grandmother was an admiral in the Navy — he actually flew planes with John McCain — so it kind of drove me to want to be in the Army. I see it as a sacrifice, (but also) an adventure.”
Zachary Holder said he is the first in his family to join the U.S. Army, but he wanted to join since he was 16 years old. He said he saw the contracting ceremony as the culmination of much hard work and the beginning of more hard work ahead.
“I’m very prepared for that, and I am willing to go through any hardship I may have to go through for our country,” Holder said. “It’s a lifelong goal ... a career I want to (have) for the rest of my life.”
Another inductee, Marcus Sims, recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. This first deployment deepened his commitment to military duty, he said, and he views other inductees who are making that same commitment for the first time with pride.
“When I see younger individuals join the ROTC, it lets me know the fight is still going and the country is still strong,” Sims said. “It actually makes me proud to see our future leaders of America.”