By Kenya Godette

At ODU's annual Spring Commissioning Ceremony, 28 ROTC students from three universities (Old Dominion, Norfolk State and Regent) became officers in the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps.

On May 2 at Chartway Arena, the new ensigns and second lieutenants took an oath to 鈥渄efend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies鈥 and to 鈥渨ell and faithfully discharge the duties of the office.鈥

鈥淵ou are about to start the most challenging but rewarding time of your life,鈥 said Capt. Brian C. Becker, commanding officer of Hampton Roads NROTC. 鈥淚鈥檓 honored to have had the opportunity to lead your training, to get you ready to lead the men and women of our military.鈥

Austin Agho, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, congratulated the graduates on behalf of the University, noting that they had not only obtained a college degree but had also satisfied the requirements to be commissioned.

鈥淵ou did not achieve this goal by chance,鈥 Agho said. 鈥淵ou are here because of your determination, resilience, character, persistence, dedication and self-discipline.鈥

Lt. Donna W. Martin, inspector general of the U.S. Army and ODU alumna, reflected on her own commissioning ceremony in 1988, and emphasized her confidence in the next generation of officers.

鈥淎s my career sunsets, it鈥檚 only right that the next generation stands ready. You are that generation,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 feel assured of our nation鈥檚 future and security because of the role each of you will play in our future.鈥

Before cadets took the oath of office, Martin shared the story of Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson Jr. to illustrate 鈥渢he strength and courage that remains rooted in the oath.鈥

On March 16, 1968, Thompson willingly disobeyed a commander鈥檚 orders by threatening to open fire on American troops, saving the lives of more than 10 Vietnamese civilians during the My La massacre. Not only was he never punished for disobeying orders, he was awarded a Soldier鈥檚 Medal for his actions.

鈥淭he My Lai massacre was not the first or the last time a military force would be misused or corrupted,鈥 Martin said. 鈥淭his type of power abuse is what the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the oath of office were designated to prevent, and also what allowed Thompson to do the right thing without punishment.鈥

Martin explained that the oath of office is intentionally worded to pledge support to the Constitution, not the President or higher-ranking officers, acting as a safeguard against corruption and a tool to keep service members accountable.

鈥淏y swearing allegiance to a set to a set of ideals and laws, our military and our soldiers are not bound by the orders of a single person, but instead dedicated to the defense of the people and their way of life,鈥 she said.

She explained that the concept traced back to America鈥檚 founding fathers 鈥 who created the governing system with a separation of powers and a series of checks and balances between branches.

鈥淚t is because of this our military has people such as Hugh Thompson who have what it takes to step in, take corrective action and do what is right without fear of punishment or reprisal for their actions,鈥 she said.

Martin commended graduates for their decision to serve the country and honor the oath of office, saying that she was proud to serve with them and 鈥渢he most powerful and professional armed services in the world.鈥

鈥淲e are forever bonded in our mission to defend this great country,鈥 she said. 鈥淢ay God bless you, may God bless your families and may God continue to bless the United States of America.鈥

Seventeen ODU students received commissions.

Nine were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army:

  • Keith Clopton, Woodbridge, B.S. leadership, Ordnance Officer
  • Naseem Darby, Fayetteville, North Carolina, B.S. criminal justice, Field Artillery Officer
  • Evan Dooley, Virginia Beach, B.S. criminal justice, Armor Officer
  • Ryan Josephson, Dumfries, B.S. business analytics, Field Artillery Officer
  • Anna Mihalovich, Woodbridge, B.S. criminal justice, Military Police Officer
  • Devin Muni, Pocomoke, Maryland, B.S. physical education, Signal Officer
  • Brent Pizzamiglio, Arlington, B.S. cybersecurity, Cyber Officer
  • Marshall Smith, Hampton, B.S. sociology, Quartermaster Officer
  • Ashley Stewart, Virginia Beach, B.S. sociology, Quartermaster Officer
  • Justin Vassalotti, Fairfax, B.S. international studies, Armor Officer

Six were commissioned as ensigns in the U.S. Navy:

  • Andrew Betz, Oakland, Maryland, B.S. nursing, Nurse Corps
  • Zachery Elledge, Eagle Lake, Texas, B.S. computer science, Information Professional
  • Karl Icban, Virginia Beach, B.S. mechanical engineering, Student Naval Flight Officer
  • Kiernan Irons, Holliston, Massachusetts, B.S. biology, Student Naval Aviator
  • Tierra McGarvey, Atlanta, Georgia, B.S. nursing, Nurse Corps
  • Gavyn Pifer, Virginia Beach, B.S. mechanical engineering technology, Student Naval Aviator

Two were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Marine Corps:

  • Joshua Faneuf, King George, B.S. international studies
  • William Patchel, Stafford, B.S. cybersecurity

Other students who received their commissions:

Norfolk State University


  • Liam Harrigan, Anguilla, British West Indies, B.S. Physics, Student Naval Aviator
  • Samuel Manqueros, Owensboro, Kentucky, B.S. chemistry, Surface Warfare Officer
  • Brice Miller, Burgaw, North Carolina, B.S. applied mathematics, Surface Warfare Officer

Marine Corps second lieutenant

  • Dominic St. Ange, B.S. political science

Regent University

Army second lieutenant

  • Yosiah Barone Gonzalez, Stafford, B.S. business marketing, Armor Officer
  • Kassidy Mayfield, Easley, South Carolina, B.S. cybersecurity, Surface Warfare Officer


  • Joshua Ellerson, Saint Marys, Georgia, B.S. computer engineering, Surface Warfare Officer
  • Solomon Fostersmith, Spring, Texas, B.S. Mathematics, Surface Warfare Officer
  • Michael Harrill, Fort Worth, Texas, B.S. Management Information Systems, Submarine Officer
  • Francisco Morales, Virginia Beach, B.S. computer engineering, Submarine Officer

Army ROTC launched at ODU in September 1969 and established a fully recognized, for-credit military science curriculum at the University in 1974. In 2003, the Faculty Senate approved an academic minor in military leadership studies. The Naval ROTC Unit Hampton Roads was commissioned in 1982 and was the first unit to offer complete NROTC programs at three universities 鈥 Old Dominion, Norfolk State and Hampton. The program has grown to include Regent University, Tidewater Community College and Virginia Wesleyan University.