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Obama commissions ROTC cadets

May 11, 2009

President Barack Obama commissioned 40 Army and Air Force cadets from five Arizona universities during the May 13 commencement ceremonies at Arizona State University.

Of those being commissioned, 29 were from ASU, four from Grand Canyon University, three from Northern Arizona University, two from the University of Arizona and two from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The young men and women are from all over Arizona (Phoenix, Payson, Peoria and Tucson) as well as from throughout the rest of the country (California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, Texas and Virginia. Their majors include meteorology, kinesiology, business, theater, justice studies, psychology, supply chain management, communication, history and nursing. Sixteen of the cadets were commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army and 24 will become officers in the Air Force.

"I feel very lucky. I will be proud to say that I was commissioned by our commander in chief," said Austin Buller, an Air Force ROTC cadet who studied meteorology and climatology in ASU's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. He received a bachelor's degree in addition to the rank of second lieutenant during the ceremonies and will head to Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas this fall for pilot training.

"Essentially, the commander in chief is a civilian, elected by the people. Because he's the one commissioning us, I feel we will be commissioned by the people," said Buller, whose father, Lance Buller, was an F-16 pilot who served 22 years in the Air Force and retired as a lieutenant colonel.

"It will be a great experience for all of us. Very few people can say they were commissioned by the commander in chief," the younger Buller said.

Prior to the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, federal law required a commissioned military officer to administer the oath. The 2007 law opened the door for the president, vice president and secretary of defense to administer the oath of commissioning.

Matthew Brown, a justice studies major and an Army ROTC cadet, was excited about President Obama coming to commencement. "It's a pretty big honor and it doesn't happen to a lot of people," said Brown, who was born in Korea when his father, now retired from the Army, was stationed there.

Brown didn't immediately apply to the officers' training program when he enrolled at ASU. However, someone suggested he give it a try and now that he's completed the program, he likes the idea that when he graduates he will have accomplished more than a college degree. He will enter active duty in Military Intelligence, assigned to Ft. Riley, Kansas.

The best part of the ROTC program, according to Brown, were the friends he made along the way. "We had to go through really hard things together," he says.

The worse part? "Getting up at 5 a.m."

Buller also cited the 5 a.m. 4-5-mile run and exercise regimen as "a tough transition" from high school.

"But I came to love it; you can accomplish so much before others get up," Buller says, adding that keeping fit is now part of his life.

Young Lee also dislikes the 5 a.m. wake-up routine, but says the best part about the Army ROTC "is learning something new every day and reinforcing what you learned."

Lee, whose father served in the Army, was born in a military hospital in Korea. A justice studies major in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Lee will enter the Signal Corps after graduation and be stationed in the Republic of Korea.

Phoenix native Nikki Smith didn't grow up in the Air Force, but after one semester, she got involved in every activity she could and the Air Force ROTC grew on her.

"I joined ROTC for the challenge," she said. "I eventually found that this is my passion; this is where I'm supposed to be. The Air Force has opened so many doors for me," said Smith, who would like to fly heavies - cargo and bomber aircraft, like the C-130.

"Although I have much more to learn, our cadre and cadet trainers have not only trained me to be a successful leader in the military, but a more productive member of society," Smith said.

In addition to her second lieutenant bars, Smith will receive a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies, with a concentration in education and social welfare, from ASU's School of Letters and Sciences.

"The best part of the ROTC program at ASU," according to Smith, "is that we take pride in our school and our detachment. We had a reputation to uphold."

"All of us, first and foremost, are students," says Buller. "We're die-hard Sun Devils."

And, they are also leaders.

"In Air Force ROTC, students receive instruction in leadership fundamentals and build experiences to create the foundation to enable them to become an Air Force leader," said Col. Donald Palandech, commander of the ASU unit, who is retiring this year.

The commander of the Army ROTC unit, Lt. Col. Kirk McIntosh, also will be retiring this year.

"In a very uncertain and somewhat chaotic world, ROTC develops the types of leaders that America and the world needs now and in the future," McIntosh said. "It is absolutely the best leadership program in the world.

"While in college and attending ROTC classes, we teach our future lieutenants to think critically, to be physically and mentally fit and agile, to take care of others, to live by the Army values, and to lead others in the toughest of circumstances," McIntosh said.

Of the two ROTC units at ASU, the Department of Military Science (Army ROTC) is the oldest. It was founded in 1935 and is located in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This year, there are 154 cadets, freshmen through seniors, who are members of the Sun Devil Battalion at ASU.

The Air Force ROTC at ASU - Detachment 025 - is home of the Flying Devils. There are 123 cadets enrolled in classes in the Department of Aerospace Studies. First founded in July 1948, Detachment 025 has had a long history of excellence in commissioning outstanding officers while continuing to change in order to meet the needs of the Air Force.

"Working with the Flying Devils has been an honor. There is a feeling of great personal satisfaction and pride as I declare these cadets ready for commission," Palandech said.

"They are hard working people who hold themselves to the principles of honesty, trustworthiness and commitment to excellence," Palandech said. "The feeling of pride is multiplied for me, as my son, Matthew, is one of the cadets commissioning."

The younger Palandech is earning a master's degree in administration from Northern Arizona University.

Cadets from each of the ROTC units participated in pinning ceremonies May 14. At the ceremony, a friend, colleague or family member pins the lieutenant bars on the cadet's uniform. 

Beginning in fall 2010, Arizona State University also will be home to a Naval ROTC program. The establishment of the Naval ROTC unit was announced April 7 by Rear Adm. Cliff Sharpe during a visit to the ASU's Tempe campus.

Below are the names and universities of the cadets who are scheduled to be commissioned by President Obama on May 13:


Jordan Breau, ASU
Matthew Brown, ASU
Teri Cunningham, ASU
Andrew Headid, ASU
Dean Hill, ASU
Young Lee, ASU
Archangel Muscato, ASU
Annie Bernholtz, GCU
Michelle Dehorney, GCU
Aaron Shramek, GCU
Carlton Griffin, NAU
Kelly Alford, NAU
Holly Vance, Embry-Riddle
Brian Swift, Embry-Riddle
Yousef, Balooshi, UA
Enewi Liber, UA

Air Force ROTC

Andrew Ahn, ASU
Austin Buller, ASU
Keith Corallo, ASU
Nicholas Detloff, ASU
Jonathan Estep, ASU
Clayton Grace, ASU
Steven Griffin, ASU
Weston Hanoka, ASU
Ashley Hastings, ASU
Brian Lydy, ASU
Angela Nicholls, ASU
Bradley Ohm, ASU
Adam Peterson, ASU
Miklos Preysz, ASU
Nikki Smith, ASU
Ashley Wolfe, ASU
Ashley Dancer, ASU
Justin Dancer, ASU
Brandon Pasterski, ASU
Brent Ruttle, ASU
Michael Steuart, ASU
Matthew Tegeler, ASU
Casey Asher, GCU
Matthew Palandech, NAU