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Naval Academy Grads Ready for New Challenges, Demands

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md., May 24, 2013 – Entering a military undergoing big changes since they arrived at the U.S. Naval Academy here in 2009, the newest generation of naval officers say the fundamentals that called them to military service remain the same.

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Josh Hyland, front, and Andrew Almonte, members of the U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2013, said they’re excited about what’s ahead for them. DOD photo by Donna Miles

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With today’s graduation and commissioning ceremonies at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, 1,047 members of the academy’s Class of 2013 prepared to lead in what Navy Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller, the Naval Academy superintendent, recognized as an “uncertain and rapidly changing world.”

For many of the graduates, the seeds for the paths they are following were planted early. Eric Provost, of Chicago, grew up with his Marine Corps veteran grandfather, Paul Heavner, as his role model.

“I’ve always had tremendous respect for him and his deep sense of discipline,” Provost said. “It had a big impact on me.”

Those qualities helped Provost confront the challenges of the Naval Academy. “It takes a lot of discipline,” he said. “You have to really push yourselves to get through.”

But as he prepared for the crescendo of his academy career, with all the pomp and circumstance of graduation and President Barack Obama addressing the class, Provost was looking forward to his next challenge, in the submarine service.

It’s one of the most rigorous communities in the fleet, he said, with high-caliber officers and sailors he said he hopes to learn from. One of the most important lessons Provost said he learned in Annapolis was humility.

“That’s really necessary for naval officers -- realizing your place in the world,” he said.

Matthew Gates said he knew as a young boy growing up in Pittsburgh that he “really wanted to serve my country.” He entered the Naval Academy with his mind set on the Marine Corps, and said he never looked back.

Attracted by the “top-notch education” and research opportunities the academy offered, Gates thrived by the challenges his professors and fellow midshipmen presented.

“Everyone here has the same goal, so there’s a lot tougher competition,” he said. “It provides a lot of motivation.”

That motivation drove Gates to zip through all his academics in computer science and information technology in just three years. He spent his senior year at the academy traveling to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to begin his Master’s degree studies, and will wrap that up before reporting to Marine Corps Basic School in December.

Gates said he’s unfazed by the changes occurring within the military, insisting that the United States will always need a strong force to deal with troubles around the world. With combat operations in Afghanistan to end next year, Gates said Marines will still be needed for anything from special operations missions to full-scale combat.

“I hope to keep our country safe, and to lead Marines to the best of my ability,” he said.

Josh Hyland, of Springfield, Va., said he, too, always felt a call to military service, inspired by both of his grandfathers and an uncle.

“I believe I was blessed to be born in this country, and for what is here because of the service of other people,” he said. “So I always thought that this was something I had to do.”

After four years at Annapolis, Hyland said he will use his lessons in academics and leadership to train as a submariner.

Pamela Guizar, from Guatemala, was among 16 international graduates who will go on to serve in their respective militaries.

The daughter of a Guatemalan soldier, Guizar said she was drawn to service from an early age. With a degree in ocean engineering and important lessons in teamwork now under her belt, she hopes to chart new opportunities for women in Guatemala’s navy.

“I hope to take as much as I can back, and teach what I have learned here,” she said.

As he administered the oath of office to the graduates, Marine Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., assistant Marine Corps commandant, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, told them to take pride in their service affiliations but also to recognize they are joining a joint force.

“You will find out soon that ‘Beat Army,’ ‘Beat Navy,’ ‘Beat Air Force’ or whatever, when you get away from the yard and the grounds that it is ‘One team, One fight,’” Paxton said.

“We are honored to have you as part of that great U.S. military team,” he told the new naval officers, still with masking tape covering the gold bars and stripes on their uniforms.

Paxton welcomed 263 Marine second lieutenants to the Corps. “We are ready to have you,” he said. “We need you to lead the young men and women who proudly call themselves fellow Marines.”

As they do, Paxton urged them to demonstrate the “four Cs.”

“You owe them your courage, your candor, your compassion and your commitment,” he said. “I know … you are more than prepared to do that.”

Addressing the 763 midshipmen about to be sworn in as Navy ensigns, Greenert echoed President Barack Obama’s theme of the importance of integrity.

“Nobody can take your integrity away from you. It is uniquely yours. Don’t lose it,” he told the class.

The CNO also reminded the class that their allegiance must be to the institution, the country and the constitution, “not to your buddies.”

“It is your oath,” Greenert said. “Think about it when you take your oath.”

Greenert dispensed more advice.

“Be kind to everybody,” he said. “Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Trust your shipmates because your life is going to depend on them. Learn your heritage.”

Lightening his tone, the admiral offered two more tidbits.

“Wear sunscreen,” he said, telling them the effects of the sun take 20 years to show. And most of important of all, he said, maintain contact with their mothers at least once a week.

“They are the wind beneath any wings you have, and they got you here,” Greenert said.


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Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert
Marine Gen. John M. Paxton Jr.

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Photo Essay: Obama, Defense Officials Attend U.S. Naval Academy Graduation

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageJewel Lightfoot, left, and Matthew Yates, right, look forward to applying the lessons they learned at the U.S. Naval Academy as they join the force on May 24, 2013. DOD photo by Donna Miles  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThreatening skies didn’t dampen the spirits of Eric Provost, left, and Pamela Gruizar during graduation and commissioning ceremonies at the U.S. Naval Academy on May 24, 2013. DOD photo by Donna Miles  
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