As a child growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Precious Siddiquee remembers Fleet Week in New York making quite an impression on her.
“It’s a big thing – every time they had Fleet Week, I would see the ships come by, and they looked like the coolest things ever.”
She is graduating from Cornell this weekend with a degree in electrical and computer engineering, and is now U.S. Navy Ensign Siddiquee, having been commissioned as an officer after completing Cornell’s Navy ROTC program. She will be training in surface warfare on the U.S.S. Mason in Norfolk, Virginia.
Siddiquee was one of 18 ROTC cadets who were formally commissioned as second lieutenants and ensigns in the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force in front of hundreds of family members and friends in Statler Auditorium May 26.
Guests of honor at the ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) Joint Service Brigade Commissioning Ceremony included Cornell Vice Provost Judith Appleton (who was given a Meritorious Civilian Service Award) and speaker Rear Adm. Erik M. Ross ’88, the current president of the Naval Board of Inspection and Survey. The invocation was given by Rev. Rick Bair of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Ithaca, and Maj. Patrick Blankenship, executive officer of the Cornell Navy ROTC, served as emcee.
Ross, a graduate of Cornell’s Navy ROTC, said the first thing he learned at Cornell was humility. “I learned about academic excellence, I learned about the value of discourse from people like [professors] Ted Lowi and Walt LaFeber. I learned that discourse is supposed to be passionate; it’s not supposed to be personal.”
Ross noted the specialties of the about-to-be-commissioned officers: several going into medical corps or brigades, a couple going into the infantry, a finance detachment person, intelligence, armor, a surface warfare officer and a bunch of aviation candidates.
“That’s the joint force right here,” he said. “What makes us the United States the most impressive military, the most capable and lethal navy in the world, is this idea of operating jointly – with different cultures that come together – and we get it done.”
He gave a brief history of warfare and national defense strategy since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s and the evolving challenges the U.S. military faces.
He offered the cadets key leadership concepts to keep in mind, including acting with integrity; showing and demanding dignity and respect; communicating, which begins with listening to people; maintaining proper perspective; and continuing to read. “Read history, read biographies. You can learn from the lessons of those who have gone before us,” he said.
Ross said that right after food and shelter as life’s necessities, he would put security and a sense of purpose. “Being connected – that’s what drives people,” he said. “We have that in the military; it’s an awesome team. It’s a phenomenal place to be. It’s hard work, but you have teammates, side by side.
“You’re going to serve as a team, and you’re going to need to serve in a manner that makes this nation proud.”
Following Ross’ remarks, the commissioned candidates (seven from the Army, six from the Navy and five from the Air Force) took their respective branch’s oath of office, had family members pin their new ranks on their uniforms and then received the ceremonial “first salute,” a long-standing tradition where the new officer gives a silver dollar, as an expression of mutual respect, to the enlisted member from whom the salute was received.
Cadets choose the enlisted member of the military from whom they will receive the first salute; while it is often an ROTC staff officer, it is sometimes a parent or relative. And while the oath of office is typically given by their commanders, several cadets also chose family members for that honor as well.
Chris Hunsaker, a former Navy captain, administered the oath to his son, Army 2nd Lt. Alec Hunsaker; and retired Navy Cmdr. T. Scot Brown administered the oath to his grandson, Ensign Andrew Brown.
“It’s a special deal for me – I did this 61 years ago,” Scot Brown said.
“It was amazing to have the person who has been a mentor for my entire childhood give me my oath,” Andrew Brown said. “He always says, ‘character counts’ – that’s his thing, so that’s all I think of.”
This year’s other newly commissioned officers (from Cornell unless noted) are: Army 2nd Lts. Felix Chung, Alyssa Espinoza, Kurt Frimel, Amanda Garcia, Daniel Jacobson and Kayden Nasworthy; Navy Ensigns Maxwell Dopsch, John Goggins Jr., Ellen Haines and Chenyang Li; and Air Force 2nd Lts. Adam Boey, Salome Clarke (SUNY Cortland), Dan DiDomenico (SUNY Cortland), Luis Leon and Heidi Mickunas (Ithaca College). Air Force 2nd Lt. Seth Crockett was commissioned separately in a May 13 ceremony.