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ASU celebrates commissioning of first naval officer

August 23, 2012

With repeated strikes of a naval brass bell and the two-tone peal of a boatswain’s whistle, Arizona State University history major Nathan Tyson stepped into the rolls of history himself as the first naval officer commissioned at ASU.

Tyson, an aspiring pilot, was ushered in as a new United States Marine Corps leader by Captain David Price, commanding officer of ASU’s naval reserve officer training corps (NROTC); Captain Steve Borden, the director of the Pat Tillman Veteran’s Center and NROTC founding commanding officer at ASU; and Commander Erich Schmidt, executive officer of the NROTC Unit ASU and Master of Ceremonies.

“Today shows the faith and trust shared by all the branches of the military and bestowed in a newly commissioned officer,” said Borden. “In his hands, we, this community, will entrust the life blood of many young women and men.”

The naval sciences ROTC program was established at ASU in 2010, with support from John Sentz, retired captain of the Naval Reserves and vice-mayor of the Town of Gilbert, and other community and ASU leaders. Now with more than 110 men and women, ASU’s program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is on track to be one of the largest NROTC programs in the United States by 2014, said NROTC leaders.

Tyson’s ceremony was marked by crisp white uniforms, broad smiles and family, as the new Second Lieutenant took his oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Tyson also received his official insignia or “pinning” with support from his parents Jeff and Leslie Tyson, and siblings Rachel and Brenton, a Marine corporal.

Corporal Tyson played a significant role in the commissioning, providing the “cover” or hat, the mark of the transition from midshipman to officer, and offering up the “first salute,” the first recognition of an enlisted person of a new officer. The ceremony also included the passing of a coin, minted the year of Tyson’s birth, from Lieutenant Tyson to his brother, Brenton – a token that signifies his appreciation for the knowledge and support offered him by the enlisted corps during his training.

“This is one of the proudest moments of my life,” stated the new Lieutenant. “I’ve had a really great experience at ASU. ROTC has been a learning experience, a growing up experience – definitely not a run-of-the-mill experience. My ROTC classmates have been like family, offering community, lots of connections and a broader spectrum of people to bond with.”

“Coming to ASU was absolutely the best choice he could have made,” added Tyson’s father.

In addition to the oath, pinning, cover and coin, the new officer received a sword – the Marmaluke sword, adopted by the Navy in 1825, which was presented by Major Christian Velasco (USMC), Marine Officer Instructor, and Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Martinez (USMC) who is also the assistant Marine Office Instructor.

“Isn’t this the coolest? Second Lieutenant Tyson is now an officer and signed up to be a Marine pilot,” said Captain Price, a pilot with a sub-specialty in education and training management who joined the ASU unit in July. “The sole purpose of the ROTC is to train officers and get them commissions. Their oath of office is the same one that every member of the government takes – from Supreme Court justices to members of Congress. Great amounts of confidence and trust are tied to this oath and the young men and women who take it. We are certifying them as fit to lead and represent the United States at home and abroad. This commissioning reflects our community and university support for Navy ROTC program.”

Also at the podium to celebrate Tyson’s commissioning was Patrick Kenney, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, associate vice president with the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, and professor in School of Politics and Global Studies. Joining him was Christine Wilkinson, senior vice president and secretary of the university, who is also the president of the Alumni Association and associate professor in Mary Lou Fulton Teacher College. Besides Price, Borden and Schmidt, ASU naval representatives included Lieutenant Ternes (USN), Lieutenant Henrichsen (USN), and Tyson’s NROTC midshipman classmates.

“This is one of the most important things that we can do: prepare future leaders in every walk in life, most especially in our military,” said Wilkinson.

“Students coming to our ROTC programs in the Navy, Army and Air Force overwhelmingly say the reason that they are here is to serve their country. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves,” said Captain Price.

“I sometimes get asked, ‘Are they as tough as we are?’” he added. “The answer is: yes, absolutely. They are every bit as good – or even better than – those of us who have already been serving. I believe that they are mentally more agile, and vastly more connected with each other. They are good for anything we throw at them and, like a hive, the new technology allows them communicate faster and more in synchrony with each other. This is the next great generation.”