Seniors receive military honors

Chris Willig and Chris Willig

Following September 11, when the United States officially began the war on terror, freshmen ROTC members knew exactly what their future had in store. The idea that our country was at war, however, didn’t deter the new recruits from second-guessing their decision – rather it strengthened it.

“It was motivation for us to work harder, and it was a real world kind of ‘hey this is something you’re going to be faced with. So you need to start preparing yourself now, and put forth a little more effort, because this is where you’re going to be in a couple years,'” said Seth Grimm, an ROTC senior and operations officer. “I remember sitting in my freshmen dorm watching the bombs fall on Baghdad and thinking to myself, ‘I need to do all I can to prepare so when I’m out there I can bring all my guys back home.'”

This motivation to work harder has paid special dividends to five graduating seniors. Cadets Kevin Hancock, Jon King, Joe Dyer, Brandon Davis and Grimm have all been selected as Distinguished Military Graduates.

Chosen by the U.S. Army Cadet Command, the title of Distinguished Military Graduate is only granted to the top 20 percent of all 3,838 seniors in ROTC programs across the nation. Distinguished Military Graduates are assessed on a National Order of Merit Scale which ranks cadets according to GPA, leadership and physical abilities. Along with the award, Distinguished Military Graduates are also granted their first proponent of choice and their first branch of choice following graduation.

“Bottom line for a cadet, if you want to ensure your destiny it starts from day one in the program, and what does it take to become a DMG,” said Lieutenant Colonel Brett Bonnell, chairman of military science and leadership. “By making a DMG you have set the stage for a military career.”

Company Commander King, who placed 342 out of the 3,838 cadets, had looked up to past Distinguished Military Graduates and set his goals high as a freshman.

“It was definitely a goal I set for myself when I came in. I realized this is what I wanted, this is what I wanted to do, and the program really facilitated meeting my goal,” King said. “They really helped to guide me along in the right direction of meeting my goals.”

While all the Distinguished Military Graduates are honored to receive this distinction, they realize this is just the beginning.

“It’s just one step along the way,” said Hancock, the Battalion Executive Officer. “The learning process always continues, but I think what we developed here is good habits and doing what it takes to succeed and always learn.”

King is hopeful that what he learned in ROTC will help him in the future, but realizes it won’t be an easy task.

“I don’t think anything can prepare you for the current environment, especially where most of us will probably end up after graduation,” King added. “But I think as long you have the basic leadership skills I think you can go out there and be somewhat prepared and ready, willing and able to learn.”

With a total of 16 graduating cadets, five of which are Distinguished Military Graduates, Bowling Green’s ROTC program ranks 11 percentage points above the national average, and Lt. Col. Bonnell feels he is effectively preparing his cadets for the future.

“Their potential is unlimited. I think without a doubt, 110 percent, that these guys and gals walking out the door between the spring and summer can meet the challenges they are about ready to face and do well at it,” Lt. Col. Bonnell said. “I would not hesitate to take any one of them and have them serve underneath me.”

Lt. Col. Bonnell, who has served 18 years on active duty for the Army realizes the importance of the ROTC program and the development of new leaders.

“We are a nation at war right now and probably within a two to three year time period that that Lieutenant graduates from here; he or she is probably going to be in either Afghanistan or Iraq. That’s probably a fact,” said Lt. Col. Bonnell. “So these cadets need to be prepared, and they need to be able to hit the ground running as junior officers.”

After spending two years as chairman of military science and leadership at the University, Lt. Col. Bonnell will return to active duty this summer as Commander of the Aviation Support Battalion. Despite leaving the program, he feels he has set the bar high for future ROTC members and believes their success will continue in the future.

“I’m going to pass the torch off to my senior military instructor Master Sergeant Cordero,” said Lt. Col. Bonnell. “I’m going to pass that torch off, and he’s going to make sure that torch burns bright.”