Three Elon seniors commissioned into the U.S. Armed Forces

The trio of students participated in Elon's ROTC programs, which are offered in collaboration with N.C. A&T State University. 

Three Elon seniors were commissioned into the U.S. Armed Forces on May 19, just a day before they will receive their degrees at the university’s annual commencement.

Austin Hughes, Nataly Johnson and Matthew Petrides were surrounded by dozens of freinds, family members, faculty and staff in Holt Chapel on Elon’s campus as they took the oath of office and presented their first salutes. 

Lt. Col. Paul M. Stanifer of the U.S. Air Force advised these new officers to lead with courage as they begin their service in the military. “Don’t be afraid to make those tough calls,” Stanifer advised. “That’s why you’re an officer. You’ll sleep better at night for it.”

From keynote speaker Keisha Bluford, a Graham attorney, the trio of new officers heard about keys to leadership as they take on new authority and begin their work as military officers. “This is a celebration,” Bluford reminded the crowd.

The commissioning ceremony is the culmination of four years of training and marks the beginning of military service for each. In taking the oath of office, each swore to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. Each newly commissioned officer becomes an agent of the executive branch of the government, appointed by the president based on the secretary of defense’s signed officer nomination scroll for appointment of each candidate which has also been approved by the U.S. Senate.    

The three seniors who were commissioned as officers have also received their first official assignments:

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Austin Hughes from Cincinnati, Ohio, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in management and accounting from the Love School of Business. While attending Elon, Hughes competed in a three International Case Study competitions. He is a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. 

Through ROTC he successfully completed the U.S. Army Air Assault Training Course at Fort Bragg where he earned the distinction of being the Honor Graduate, attended the Cultural Understanding & Language Proficiency Program in Paraguay, and participated in Ranger Challenge for four years. 

Hughes was commissioned into the Army Aviation Branch where he will coordinate and lead operations using Army helicopters. He begins his training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in July with his assignment to be determined following completion of Flight School. 

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Nataly Johnson from Millersville, Maryland, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the Love School of Business and a minor in Middle East studies. While attending Elon, Johnson was a member of the Women’s Club Basketball team, the Arabic Language Organization and studied abroad in Ireland. 

Through ROTC she completed the Drill Cadet Leadership Training program at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, participated in Color Guard and attended the George C. Marshall Leadership seminar in February. 

Johnson was commissioned into the Army Chemical Corps where she will serve with units tasked with defending against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. She begins her training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in July and upon graduation from the Officer Basic Leadership Couse will attend U.S. Army Airborne School to become certified as a paratrooper. 

U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Matthew Petrides from Annapolis, Maryland, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in Latin American/Caribbean Politics from Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. While attending Elon, Petrides studied abroad in Costa Rica. He is a member of Sigma Chi fraternity and Phi Beta Kappa Political Science Honor Society. 

Through ROTC he attended Field Training/LEAD Camp. He has been awarded the American Legion Scholastic Excellence Award as well as the Elon Presidential Scholarship.   

Petrides has received an offer to be a rated officer as an air battle manager and will assist the Air Force’s command & control and battle management missions around the world. He will begin his training to receive his flight wings at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, in August.    

Elon University’s Army and Air Force ROTC programs are offered through a cooperative agreement with N.C. A&T State University.