College graduation is an exciting but bittersweet time. One stage of the student’s life is drawing to a close, and a new stage is beginning. The next step is on the minds of many graduates who are just beginning the job search with a freshly minted degree in hand.
For four New Mexico State University Army ROTC cadets who earned their degrees this spring, the beginning of their career is already charted, and they are excited about the future.
Army ROTC cadets Dominic LaVolpa, Luis Pena, Justice Cordero and Brisa Lopez in the New Mexico State University Bataan Battalion recently received their second lieutenant bars during the traditional commissioning ceremony where they took an oath to their country, sealing their admittance into the officer corps of the U.S. Army.
COVID-19 related state health orders limiting gatherings to no more than five people did not stop the NMSU battalion from conducting the ceremony on May 16, though with a different look. Modern technology allowed the event to be held with family and friends participating through Zoom from around the country.
LaVolpa and Pena took the Oath of Commissioned Officers at NMSU’s campus outside of Young Hall, while, later in the day, Cordero and Lopez were sworn in at a private home in El Paso.
The ceremony included encouraging comments regarding the new officers by Lt. Col. George W. Childs III, NMSU professor of military science, and Staff Sgt. Adan Reyes, Army Reserve 900th quartermaster company in El Paso.
Each will use their degree specialty during their service in the military. They all credit the challenge of the ROTC program with preparing them for the adventure of life.
LaVolpa served as the battalion commander while earning a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology degree. His emphasis of study in exercise science will be called upon as he helps implement a new physical fitness practice the Army is developing.
“There are a lot more moving parts with this new test than there is currently,” he said. “It’s focused a lot on the research and background of my degree, which sets me up with the knowledge of how to prepare others for the new test.”
LaVolpa, a Roswell native, will be stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia with the armored division.
His brother, Daniel, also entered military service through Army ROTC. A visit to his brother’s base in Alaska convinced LaVolpa that Army life was for him.
“I missed the comradery I had in high school sports,” he said. “I found that environment in ROTC and the Army. I decided this is the kind of people I want to be around.”
Coming from a family of Marines, Cordero followed her own path and found the Army ROTC.
With a Bachelor of Public Health degree, the Santa Teresa, New Mexico, native will serve in the Army Reserve as a medical reserve officer stationed in Seagoville, Texas.
“I don’t know exactly what I will be doing, but I know a lot of what I learned in public health school applies to being a medical service officer,” she said. “Eventually I want to go back to nursing school and transition to being an Army nurse.”
Through ROTC, she said she discovered not just friends, but an extended family.
“You are there for each other every day, working together,” she said. “In the future, if our paths cross, they will be there to give you a helping hand when you need it.”
Lopez already knows where she will be stationed after Signal Corps training at Fort Gordon in Georgia: The Gilmer, Texas, native is headed to Germany.
While enlisted in the Army Reserves, she realized she wanted to go to college and become an officer. She has accomplished this by obtaining a Bachelor of Information and Communication Technology degree.
“I’m the first in my family to be in the military,” she said. “I’ve always known I wanted to be in the Army. While ROTC is a challenging commitment, it is so worth the reward of the things you learn, the values you live.”
History, especially military history, fascinates Pena. While growing up in Deming, a military career was a goal for him – especially being an officer.
Pena extended the love of history into a Bachelor of Arts degree while earning the rank of battalion executive officer.
“I take a lot of inspiration from the movie ‘Band of Brothers,’ and, especially, how everyone trusted Lt. Winters,” he said. “Being an officer is having the trust of the men to where they will follow you into any situation.”
Pena has been assigned to the infantry branch and is headed to Fort Benning in Georgia.
“You are either in the mechanized or airborne infantry,” he said. “I am hoping to go airborne, but that’s up to the Army to decide.”
Author: Jane Moorman – NMSU
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