December 11, 2023

Army and Air Force host Joint Commissioning Ceremony at Southern Miss

Therese Apel

Photo: University of Southern Mississippi ROTC

Three Army and one Air Force University of Southern Mississippi Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets were commissioned as Second Lieutenants this weekend in the Thames Polymer Science Research Center Auditorium on the Hattiesburg Campus.

Lt Gen Michael W. Peterson, USAF Ret. and USM Alum, who received his commission as a distinguished graduate of AFROTC Detachment 432’s class in 1974 at Southern Miss, was the guest speaker.

The Commissioning Ceremony marks the beginning of the cadet’s career, as they move on to lead and serve as Second Lieutenants for the Army and U.S. Air Force.

“It was an honor hosting this year’s Joint Commissioning Ceremony, as it was my first time officiating it since I started my tenure with USM’s Army ROTC,” said LTC Juan J. Ortiz, director of military science at USM. “The ceremony marks an important milestone for the cadets as they celebrate the beginning of a new chapter dedicated to service and leadership.”

Lt Col Sheena Puleali’i, director of Aerospace Studies at USM adds: “The highlight of the commissioning ceremonies is the opportunity to meet the supportive families and friends of the cadets who have worked tirelessly to achieve this milestone. There’s always a distinct feeling of accomplishment that radiates from the stage.”

2LT Nikolas Blenden will begin his career in the Active Duty Army as a Signal Officer. The Signal Corps Branch, an operations support branch, creates and manages communications and information systems for the command and control of U.S. Army Forces.

“My favorite aspect of USM’s Army ROTC program has undeniably been the people I’ve had the privilege to meet,” said 2LT Blenden. “As a business administration major, I’ve been able to network and become friends with people from all walks of life, providing me with invaluable friendships and potential connections for future career endeavors.”

“During my time in the ROTC program, I held several leadership positions that allowed me to hone my leadership skills while also instilling in me a profound sense of responsibility to my team and program,” added 2LT Blenden.

“As a future Signal Officer in the U.S. Army, I plan to learn the intricacies of the Signal branch and strive to become the best I can be at whatever I can to make a difference, whether in my job or the lives of my soldiers. I aspire to return one day to USM and be able to teach and lead other cadets in their journey to becoming U.S. Army Officers.”

2LT Cedric Clemmons is set to begin his career as a Field Artillery Officer within the U.S. Army National Guard. In this capacity, he will play a pivotal role in securing our Nation’s defense through a diverse set of responsibilities associated with planning and executing various forms of maneuvers and operations.

2LT Shakera Holmes will begin her career in Medical Service Corps within the Mississippi National Guard, which stands as the most diverse branch of the U.S. Army. In this role, 2LT Holmes will be responsible for developing medical operations plans and overseeing the soldiers responsible for executing these plans within organizations at various echelons.

2d Lt Trevor Clark will begin his career as a Logistics Readiness Officer, specializing in preparing airmen and equipment for day-to-day operations and deployments. In this capacity, he will oversee various responsibilities, including cargo distribution, airlift operations, materiel management, among others. His commitment involves working tirelessly around the clock and across the globe, connecting operational dots.

“This honor marks the ending of one challenging chapter in my life and the beginning of another. I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to something larger than myself and make a lasting impact on other people’s lives and the defense and security of my Nation,” said 2d Lt Clark. “I will forever cherish being a part of the USM’s Air Force ROTC – Detachment 432 family, as Lt Col Puleali’i, our detachment’s commander, has truly made this program a great place to be. I have made lifelong friends and mentors.”

“During my time in the program, I seized numerous leadership opportunities, most recently, I was selected to serve as a Cadet Training Assistant over the summer. In this role I was able to contribute to the training and graduation of approximately 2,000 cadets undergoing Field Training. Being able to collaborate with some of the Nation’s best CTAs and Active-Duty Cadre proved to be an enriching experience.”

Commissioning Cadets included:


2LT NIKOLAS BLENDEN | a native of Hattiesburg, Miss.

• BSBA in Business Administration

• Commissioned into U.S. Army as a Signal Corps Officer

2LT CEDRIC CLEMMONS | a native of New Orleans, La.

• BS in Criminal Justice

• Commissioned into U.S. Army National Guard, Field Artillery

2LT SHAKERA HOLMES | a native of Hattiesburg, Miss.

• BA in Liberal Studies

• Commissioned into U.S. Army National Guard, Medical Service

Air Force:

2d LT TREVOR CLARK | a native of Diamond Head, Miss.

• BSBA in Business Administration

• Commissioned into the U.S. Air Force as a Logistics Readiness Officer

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