Texas A&M commissioning ceremony
A large crowd attended the Texas A&M University-Central Texas spring 2018 ROTC commissioning ceremony for 12 new U.S. Army lieutenants at the university campus Saturday, May 12, 2018.

Andy Zavoina | Herald

Twelve newly minted second lieutenants received their gleaming gold bars and first salutes Saturday at the U.S. Army commissioning ceremony at Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen.

The multipurpose room at Warrior Hall on campus was filled to the brim with proud families and service members in uniform.

“I just love the Army,” said new second lieutenant Jennifer Alvarez just before being given the oath of office and her gold bars. “I’m superexcited and a little nervous. I’ve dreamed of this day since high school.”

Alvarez earned her bachelor’s degree in applied arts and sciences in business management and she will be a cyber officer.

Lt. Col. Marty Deckard administered the oath of office to the cadets, followed by the audience clapping as the new officers stood proudly at attention.

Joining the officer corps is no easy feat, and it is not meant to be.

“We have a lot of 4.0 GPAs because we want the cream of the crop,” said Capt. Steven Thompson, assistant professor of military science at Texas A&M-Central Texas.

During the program, they learned about leadership, tactics, being a good citizen and how to motivate soldiers, Thompson said.

They start out leading their peers.

”If you can lead your peers, you can lead anyone,” he said. “An officer has to find in each soldier a motivating factor.”

The next step for the new second lieutenants is a basic officer leadership course where they learn what it means to be an officer and they master a specialization.

“They learn a lot about planning,” Thompson said. “They learn to plan for the next five minutes, six months, two years out, all while managing their troops and the budget.”

After passing the leadership course, the new officers will be qualified to lead troops, usually anywhere from 30 to 50 soldiers.

“First they’re put through the wringer, with lots of late nights,” he said. “The last car in the parking lot is going to be an officer.”

Another new lieutenant on Saturday was Jennifer Omeire, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in applied arts and sciences in business management. She started the program as a sergeant.

“It’s an awesome feeling; I’ve worked really hard for this,” Omeire said.

Her goal is to be a positive leader.

“It’s important to get to know your soldiers personally,” she said. “Soldiers want to know their leader knows them and it helps them feel involved and part of the team. It’s good motivation.”

Omeiere’s mother pinned on her bars while her three children watched.

“There’s been countless hours, sleepless nights, missed birthdays because I had a test,” Omeire said. “It comes with sacrifice but it’s all worth it.”

She’s heading to Kentucky for training, then to Fort Jackson in South Carolina as her first duty station.

Every soldier has his or her own reason for reaching for the second lieutenant bars.

“Most soldiers want to do something better for themselves, their family and society as a whole,” Thompson said. “They’re patriots.”

Emily Hilley-Sierzchula is reporter for the Killeen Daily Herald. Reach her at emilys@kdhnews.com

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