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U.S. Army National Guard OCS Graduation Ceremony Held At Mt. Rushmore

KEYSTONE, S.D. –U.S. Army National Guard officer candidates from 26 states, one U.S. territory, and the Reserves attended their graduation ceremony from Officer Candidate School at Mount Rushmore near Keystone, recently.

The ceremony for the 126 candidates  represents the end of Officer Candidate School, the first step in officer training and development, and the beginning of their careers as commissioned officers.

“We are always presented with certain challenges and things in our day-to-day lives and in the world and I’m optimistic when I see your accomplishments,” said guest speaker, Col. Brad Carter, the Assistant Adjutant General for the Oklahoma Army National Guard, “and serving as an officer among the ranks is one of the greatest honors that a person can have.”

Six Soldiers were honored for their distinguished achievements. (Pictured left-right) Leadership Excellence Award: Michael Williams, Pennsylvania, Third Honor Graduate: Nicholas Hines, Colorado, Academic Excellence Award: Henry George, Idaho, Distinguished Honor Graduate: Joseph Redzich, Wyoming, Second Honor Graduate: William Earley, Indiana, Physical Fitness Excellence Award: Stormie Bush, Kansas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Breanne Donnell)

The OCS program in South Dakota is one of two programs throughout the U.S. that offers all three phases of OCS in one location, allowing National Guard Soldiers to pursue the accelerated eight-week option or a traditional option, which consists of 16 to 18 months of drill weekends and two two-week training periods.

“It’s a phenomenal program that produces new lieutenants and I’ve been with this group since day one, and I’m just incredibly impressed with the drive, the determination and resiliency they bring to this program,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kaylan Harrington, platoon trainer for this summer’s OCS program in South Dakota.

OCS is taught in a high-stress environment, where candidates are tested academically and physically, both in the classroom and in field environments.

“I think the next generation of officers are coming in with a lot more technical knowledge, as well as tactical, and they have the resources at their fingertips that they are really utilizing to make our military better overall,” said Harrington.

In order for the candidates to be successful throughout the program, they had to rely on each other’s strengths and maintain a high degree of cooperation between one another.

“It’s an opportunity I can use to add more value to our organization and I did everything I set out to do on the enlisted side and there’s always something else you can learn,” said the Distinguished Honor Graduate for OCS Class 23-001, Joseph Redzich of Wyoming.

The candidates’ next step to developing as an officer is to attend the Basic Officer Leader Course, which focuses on their branch-specific training, such as engineering, field artillery and transportation.

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