Last class graduates from AMS
By Master Sgt. Greg Rudl , National Guard Bureau
/ Published July 23, 2009
McGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- The commissioning bell here tolled 94 times today, and 94 new Air National Guard second lieutenants were challenged to become great leaders.
The bell tolled for the last time for the officer candidates of class "O-2009-4," the last class to graduate from the Academy of Military Science, an officer commissioning program here at the I.G. Brown Air National Guard Training and Education Center (TEC).
When their name was called, candidates rang the bell, stepped up on stage, received their diplomas and a set of gold bars.
Presenting firm handshakes and diplomas were: Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, director of the Air National Guard; Lt. Col. Ron Daniels, the AMS commandant; and Col. Richard Howard, commander of the Training and Education Center.
Over 600 guests and distinguished visitors watched in Wilson Hall as Wyatt administered the federal oath to these future leaders of the Air National Guard.
"It's a great day for them, for us and the entire country," said Peter Shinn, a faculty advisor for the AMS graduating class. "They have been a through a transformative experience."
After 38 years at McGhee-Tyson, the Academy of Military Science (AMS) will move to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., to form a partnership with the Air Force's Officer Training School.
The move will provide a shared, common experience for all officer candidates in the Total Force, Guard officials said.
After the commissioning ceremony, the new lieutenants marched in a pass-in-review for Wyatt, Daniels and Howard that included a flyover of F-16s Falcon jets and a P-51 Mustang.
The relief and sense of accomplishment could be seen in the faces of graduates, including now 2nd Lt. Tarren Barrett, who said: "I won't stop smiling today."
Barrett is headed to civil engineering school at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
"I look forward to going back to my unit ... and support those I've been tasked to lead," she said, adding that she is proud to be a part of the last class here, especially because she's from the local area.
2nd Lt. Lance McDaniel of Spokane, Wash., was practicing his about-faces in front of his mom and girlfriend in Spruance Hall before graduation.
"It was tough," he said about the experience. "I took it seriously, and it will give me the tools I need to be a successful officer."
Along with honing his problem-solving skills, he learned about traditions, such as why many officers defer wearing ribbons during normal duty days. He said they do it to focus awards and accolades on their subordinates rather than themselves.
McDaniel said that he had many leadership traits before arriving here, but the six-week course taught him more, including not to interfere when someone else was in charge.
Being in the last class, "we felt that the bar was raised higher," he said. "Our instructors pushed us, and we as a class wanted to go further and exceed what previous classes had done."
McDaniel will report to pilot training in December to fly the KC-135 refueling tanker.
2nd Lt. Teah Johnson waited in the early morning for her parents, boyfriend and brother to join her for the day's events.
She will take her gold bars and her newfound leadership skills back to the 182nd Wing in Peoria, Il., to become a navigator on the C-130 cargo aircraft. She was a staff sergeant and a crew chief on the plane before she came to AMS.
"I learned to be a good leader, but also a good follower," Johnson said. "The first week, I didn't like it here -- that's to be expected -- but it grew on me."
AMS has commissioned more than 14,600 officers in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. During the six-week course, students learn many lessons.
And Officer Candidate Wayne Doyle challenged his classmates not to forget them, because "our enemies hope that we forget what we learn here about integrity, leadership and excellence."