Newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Elijah Murrell said he wants to challenge himself mentally and physically as an Army officer.
"I am super excited," said Murrell, of O'Fallon, MO.
He and 16 of his colleagues—including Eureka resident Alex Hendel—became Army officers Friday during the 93rd Gateway Battalion Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Commissioning Ceremony at Washington University.
Murrell is headed to Fort Campbell in Kentucky. He said he then plans to apply for the U.S. Special Forces.
Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal presided over the gathering, telling the graduates they will serve "so that someone you love can live … that's what you, when you take that oath of office to defend that Constitution and fight those terrorists like Osama bin Laden, who want to deny you liberty and freedom, that's what you're willing to do, make the ultimate sacrifice.
"But the most important thing you need to do is to save your skills and abilities in a broad and complex environment to help this nation move forward as leaders. As Army leaders, but as leaders. As good parents, as good family members, as good community leaders, as good people," Westphal said.
Lt. Col. Jim Craig gave the officers their commissions and administered the oath of office. He is a professor of military science at the university and is commander of the Gateway Battalion. The battalion includes students from 11 four-year schools in the St. Louis area such as Washington University, in Clayton and Lindenwood University.
The ceremony means President Barack Obama has commissioned the graduates as officers in the Army, Craig said. The majority of them will head into active duty, while a few will first attend medical or law school. Most of them worked for four years in ROTC, which included attending an extra class each semester and sacrificing their summers.
"The growth that I get to see over the course of the program is really incredible," Craig said.
He said he felt nervous, proud and ready to get on with his life when he was commissioned as an officer at West Point in 1993.
Eric Pinard-Janisch of Chugiak, AK, also was commissioned Friday. He studied at Washington University for three years as a transfer student from New York University.
"It's a culmination of a lot of hard work," Pinard-Janisch said. His girlfriend, Nigeen Hessami, attended the ceremony. His parents are driving in from Alaska for graduation next week.
He is headed to Fort Benning in Georgia. He will take his Basic Officer Leadership Course and go to U.S. Army Airborne School and Ranger School, and plans to be stationed in Italy by September 2012.
"I'm just looking forward to doing what I've been training for for the last four years," Pinard-Janisch said.
Missouri residents commissioned Friday as officers:
- Alex Hendel of Eureka (Fontbonne University)
- Elijah Murrell of O'Fallon, MO (Lindenwood University)
- Michael Bruns of St. Louis (University of Missouri-St. Louis)
- Spencer Mackenzie of Kirkwood (Saint Louis University)
- William Shim of Columbia, MO (Washington University)
- Joshua Tunnage of Troy (Lindenwood University)
- Beverly Wagner of Lonedell (University of Missouri-St. Louis)
- Maretie Wagner of Lonedell (Saint Louis University)
- Brendan Walmsley of Webster Groves (Saint Louis University)