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Air Force and Army host Joint Commissioning Ceremony at USM

Mon, 05/15/2023 - 10:59am | By: Ivonne Kawas Prado


Four Air Force and nine Army University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets were commissioned as Second Lieutenants last weekend at Bennett Auditorium on the Hattiesburg campus. 

Additionally, USM’s Air Force ROTC (AFROTC) commemorated its 50th Commissioning Class. Lt Col Shelby Michael Townsend, USAF Ret. and USM Alum, who received his commission as a distinguished graduate of AFROTC Detachment 432’s first class in 1973 at Southern Miss, was the guest speaker.

“This Commissioning Class marks the 50th year that Southern Miss has hosted an Air Force ROTC Detachment ceremony that has commissioned Second Lieutenants into the United States Air Force,” said Lt Col Sheena Puleali'i, director of Aerospace Studies at USM. “The fact that a Cadet from the Detachment’s first Commissioning Class was here as the guest speaker made this moment even more special for our Commissionees.”

The Commissioning Ceremony also 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.

“This ceremony is the culmination of four years of hard work,” said LTC E. Walker Nordan Jr., director of military science at USM. “Our Cadre team is honored to announce that this year all of our Commissionees received their first choice of service component, with eight choosing to serve on Active Duty and one choosing to continue service in the Mississippi Army National Guard.”

LTC Nordan went on to emphasize that this year’s class is among the best in the Nation and the accolades bestowed exemplify the high-caliber level of training Cadets received here at Southern Miss.

“I’m particularly honored to announce that 2LT Dylan Miller is the first officer to be Commissioned as an Army Special Operations Forces Selectee, selected for future service in the Psychological Operations Regiment. Additionally, four Cadets were recognized by U.S. Army Cadet Command as “Distinguished Military Graduates,” including 2LT Peyton Kahl, 2LT Aaron Lovelace, 2LT Dylan Miller, and 2LT Havens Wise. This is an honor awarded to only the top ten percent of Commissionees in the Nation.”

Lt Col Puleali'i also commended Air Force ROTC Cadets for their hard work over the course of their college career. She notes that this year’s class stands out for their “Sothern Miss Grit,” as they successfully maintained Air Force discipline and physical standards despite the sacrifice it entails.

“What separates these Graduating Cadets apart from their peers that didn’t finish the program is discipline. The discipline needed to meet with Cadets after class when extra practice is needed; the discipline to maintain a healthy diet; the discipline to wake up in time to attend 6:00 a.m. physical training sessions twice a week…every week,” said Lt Col Puleali'i. “The added responsibilities for an Air Force ROTC Cadet can be time consuming, but with great work and sacrifice, comes great reward.” 

2d Lt Christian Rapetti, a native of Petal, Miss. and a Computer Science graduate, enthusiastically shares that it is surreal for him to see his dream become a reality.

“Becoming a Second Lieutenant means the world to me,” said 2d Lt Rapetti. “I don't think I've ever worked harder to accomplish something. This has been a four-year long process and it is kind of surreal to see all that work finally create what was just a dream that long ago into something real.”

“During my time in Air Force ROTC, I held different leadership positions including being a Flight Commander, where I was able to be a hands-on instructor, and Cadet Wing Commander, where I was able to take a step back and oversee the whole Detachment. However, my favorite part of my ROTC experience has been being able to serve as a teacher for the underclassmen. It sparked a passion for teaching and instructing that I never knew that I had,” added 2d Lt Rapetti.

“It was challenging to find a balance with pursuing my major and ROTC, but I believe it helped develop me into the leader I am today—I can apply a lot of the lessons learned into my academics and all across my life.” 

2LT Jacob Maxon, a native of Petal, Miss. and a Criminal Justice graduate, says he never originally planned to become an Officer, but is proud of ultimately finding his way into the program.

“I never really planned on going to college right out of high school, so I’m glad I had a mentor who pushed me to apply for the National Army ROTC Scholarship my senior year. Thankfully, I was awarded a 3-year scholarship, which was extended thanks to the commitment I showed upon my first semester as a freshman at Southern Miss,” said 2LT Maxon. “I'm glad I chose this career path because it has opened doors and provided great opportunities for my family and my future. I only hope I can pay it forward by being the best leader I can be for my Soldiers and to be able to inspire and motivate them along the way, passing down all the knowledge I have and will continue to learn.”

Commissioning Cadets included:


2LT KYLE BENNETT | a native of Selma, Ala.

  • BIS in Interdisciplinary Studies
  • Commissioned into US Army Active Duty as an Engineer Officer


2LT PHILLIP BERTRAND | a native of New Orleans, La

  • BS in Sports Management
  • Commissioned into US Army Active Duty as an Ordnance Officer


2LT PEYTON KAHL | a native of Albany, La.

  • BSN in Nursing
  • Commissioned into US Army Active Duty as a Nursing Officer
  • Recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate


2LT AARON LOVELACE  | a native of Hattiesburg, Miss.

  • BSN in Nursing
  • Commissioned into US Army Active Duty as a Nursing Officer
  • Recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate


2LT RAY MALLISHAM  | a native of Daphne, Ala.

  • BSBA in Accounting
  • Commissioned into the US Army Active Duty as a Finance Officer


2LT JACOB MAXON | a native of Petal, Miss.

  • BA in Criminal Justice
  • Commissioned into US Army Active Duty as a Military Police Officer


2LT JALEN MCMEANS | a native of Gautier, Miss.

  • BA in Spanish
  • Commissioned into the US Army Active Duty as a Transportation Officer


2LT DYLAN MILLER  | a native of Petal, Miss.

  • BSBA in Entrepreneurship
  • Commissioned into US Army Active Duty as a Military Intelligence Officer and detailed to Field Artillery
  • Recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate


2LT HAVENS WISE | a native of Vancleave, Miss.

  • BS in Kinesiology
  • Commissioned into US Army National Guard as an Engineer Officer
  • Recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate


Air Force:

 2d Lt LOGAN LANDO  | a native of Brandon, Miss

  • BS in Kinesiology
  • Commissioned into the US Air Force as an Aerospace Physiologist;


2d Lt NOEL PARRETT | a native of Kokomo, Miss.

  • BA in Business Management
  • Commissioned into the US Air Force as a Pilot;


 2d Lt CHRISTIAN RAPETTI | a native of Petal, Miss.

  • BA in Computer Science
  • Commissioned into the US Air Force as a Combat Systems Officer


2d Lt MERT SAHIN | a native of Cedar Park, Texas

  • BA in Computer Science
  • Commisioned into the US Air Force as a Cyberspace Operations Officer