The Charger Blog

University's ROTC Commissioning Ceremony Recognizes New Second Lieutenants

As part of a recent ceremony at the University, nearly two dozen new second lieutenants were commissioned. It was a meaningful way to recognize their achievements, leadership, and perseverance.

May 24, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Servicemembers taking the oath of office
The servicemembers take the oath of office during the ceremony.

Just days after walking across the stage at the University's Commencement, Garrett Barnes '23 walked across another stage as he celebrated a second major milestone. This time, he was recognized as part of the University's Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) Commissioning Ceremony.

Barnes was one of nearly two dozen new second lieutenants who were honored as part of the event. A new national security graduate, Barnes will head to Fort Benning, GA, and he will begin Army Ranger school.

"Every cadet who enters this program intends to finish, and this represents our hard work and our dedication," he said. I look at this as a check in the box, a step toward being the best version of myself."

'You have already made us proud'
Dominika Dojnikowski
Dominika Dojnikowski celebrates after the commissioning.

The ceremony, held in the University's Bucknall Theater, brought together the new second lieutenants, most of whom are new University of New Haven grads. The group also included students from local universities, including Yale and UConn. They celebrated with each other, their families, friends, professors, and program instructors.

For Dominika Dojnikowski, a UConn Stamford student, the ceremony was a poignant celebration of her – and her fellow second lieutenants' – accomplishments. The first in her family to be born in the U.S. and the first to serve, she will be joining the cyber unit with the Connecticut National Guard. She will also be interning this summer with Bloomberg in New York.

"The amount of dedication everyone put into the program every day was amazing," she said. "Everyone is well beyond their years. Life is more than about being successful. It's meaningful to me to be part of something greater and to share this with our family and friends."

As part of the ceremony, the new second lieutenants received their pins that their loved ones pinned them to their lapels on stage, as well as certificates. It was meaningful way to celebrate their completion of the program as well as their perseverance. The cadets excelled in the program, and the group ranked among the top 20 percent of ROTC graduates nationwide.

Alyssa LeMay ’23
Alyssa LeMay ’23 was pinned by her parents during the ceremony.

"You have already made us proud," said Martin O'Connor, M.Div., J.D., associate professor of fire science and emergency management and University chaplain. "We know there's more to come."

'Mission first, people always'

Colonel (Ret.) Mike Brockway, who delivered the ceremony's keynote address, shared his own experiences and advice, in particular, about the importance of leadership. He urged the new second lieutenants to never take their soldiers for granted and to ensure they have what they need to succeed. He also encouraged them to demonstrate leadership by sharing credit for achievements.

Xavier Colon ’23
Xavier Colon ’23 is pinned during the ceremony.

"Let your team have the spotlight," said Brockway, who served more than three decades in the Army Reserves, including two combat deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. "Your leadership will be evident through their successes. Leadership is a privilege. It's a gift, and it should be cherished. Mission first, people always."

The ceremony also included current ROTC cadets who served as volunteers. Jaden Newman '26 was among them. She was excited to celebrate the new second lieutenants, and to be a part of an important event that will soon feature her walking across the stage.

"I'll be a part of this ceremony in three years," said Newman, a hospitality and tourism management major. "It's great to see the ceremony now. I'm glad I could serve at this year's event."

Karen Rodiles ’23 with fellow second lieutenants
Karen Rodiles ’23 cuts the cake with her fellow second lieutenants following the Commissioning Ceremony.