RAPID CITY — Seven South Dakota Army National Guard (SDNG) soldiers ascended to the officer corps as second lieutenants during an Aug. 16 commissioning ceremony at Camp Rapid.
The ceremony commemorated the completion of officer candidate school (OCS), which consisted of 18 months of drill weekends and two, two-week training periods.
“When commissioning traditional candidates, it is rewarding to see their excitement,” said Maj. Michael Bierle, company commander for 1st Battalion, 196th Regiment.
“It’s a great culmination after a long, grueling, and grinding year to see the candidates’ excitement at commissioning.”
The ceremony included several traditions: the pinning of rank on the officers’ uniform, their first salute and taking the oath of office led by SDNG Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Jeff Marlette. Marlette introduced each candidate individually with a short bio during the ceremony.
“It isn’t just about us, but about family,” said Marlette. “It takes more than just the soldiers — it takes the support from our families to accomplish the mission.”
Class 63 was unique in the history of South Dakota’s OCS program.
“We were the first graduating class made up entirely of married soldiers,” said 2nd Lt. Tyler Gregor, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 109th Regional Support group. “This experience solidified the importance of building camaraderie as you see in separations such as deployments.
“The OCS program was a real eye-opener,” said Gregor. “It really focused on mentoring us to become better leaders and making sure we can withstand the stressors of being an officer.”
The graduates were not the only honorees of the ceremony. One of their instructors, Sgt. 1st Class Chad Hartley, was named Instructor of the Year.
“I am honored and humbled to receive this award,” said Hartley. “I have 22 years in the National Guard, and I was considering retirement but this class made me realize how much I enjoyed instructing and mentoring, so I decided to reenlist for another six years.”
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