CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Marietta, Ga August 8, 2015. – Nine graduates of the Georgia National Guard’s Georgia Military Institute were commissioned as second lieutenants during a ceremony at the Clay National Guard on August 8, 2015. The ceremony marks the culmination of 18 months of rigorous academic and physical training for the officers who will now assume leadership positions throughout the State.
“This course tested us beyond our limits,” said 2nd Lt. Daryl Vince Padgett Jr. of Atlanta. “Getting two hours of sleep a night, working all month between drills on academics and leadership… we developed a lot of respect for each other.”
The traditional Georgia Guard Officer Candidate School class commits to 18 months of training during drill weekends and two summer annual training events. Once accepted into the OCS program, candidates are subjected to a series of academic challenges and arduous tasks to test them both physically and mentally.
“GMI provides 241 hours of academic instruction in phase II alone,” said Maj. Davis R. Varner, senior trainer and OCS company commander. “During phase II, (Officer candidates) drill from July to January and receive instruction and practical exercises before testing. From February to May, training concentrates on warrior training and battle drills. The course culminates in the two-week field intensive phase III exercise.”
Of the sixteen who candidates initially began the 18 month journey only nine remained for the final two-week field exercise. The new lieutenants reflected on the course of training at the graduation ceremony.
“(OCS) was easily the hardest thing I have ever done, said 2nd Lt. Scott Tinney of Suwanee, a veteran of more than a decade of service and multiple deployments.
For 2nd Lt. Marsha Williams of Jesup, the lessons learned over the course of OCS will have direct impact on her unit leadership.
“These 18 months showed how resilient we are,” said Williams. “In 18 months we had jobs, families, things that could have deterred us from our goals, but we persevered. We can pass the lessons of resiliency on to our Soldiers.”
Three officers were singled out for excellence at the ceremony. Second Lt. Tinney was recognized as the outstanding leadership graduate and was presented with the Georgia Guard’s Erickson Trophy. Second Lt. Darrin Torrey of Atlanta received the award for outstanding academic performance while 2nd Lt. Clessie Simmons III of Hephzibah stood out for physical fitness performance by achieving the highest overall score in the Army physical fitness test.
The officers of OCS Class 54 come from a diverse leadership background. While some entered the Georgia Guard as officer candidates the majority have prior enlisted experience and are veterans of overseas deployments. The new officers will follow careers in Army branches such as Infantry, Chemical, Military Police and Finance.
The Georgia Military Institute, part of the Georgia National Guard’s 122nd Regional Training Institute has served as an officer candidate school for the Georgia Army National Guard since 1961. Initially established in Marietta in 1851, GMI provided military instruction until 1864 when it was burned during the advance of the Federal armies of Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. In 1961, GMI was reestablished by the Georgia Army National Guard in Macon. In 2008 the institute returned to Marietta as part of the 122nd RTI.
GMI is administered by the Georgia National Guard’s 122nd Regional Training Institute. In July 2012, the 122nd RTI was recognized in as an institution of excellence, The institute is one out of just 26 schools to achieve the title out of all training institutes in the 54 state and territories.
Story and Photos by Capt. William Carraway
Georgia Army National Guard