Six members of the Class of 2023 commissioned into the military

Three U.S. Air Force ROTC cadets and three U.S. Army ROTC cadets completed Elon's ROTC program and will enter military service.

Six Elon seniors took the oath of office and were commissioned into the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army as second lieutenants on Thursday, just a day before they will walk across the stage to receive their Elon diplomas at Commencement.

Whitley Auditorium hosted ceremonies for both branches of the service, with cadets from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, High Point University and N.C. A&T State University joining cadets from Elon for the U.S. Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremony. Claire McGrath, Arran Ponte and Lauren Singles were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force and Robert Dalton, Jillian Engels and Isabella Piccirilli were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

With friends and family looking on, these six new Elon graduates took the oath of office, had their ranks pinned on their uniforms and received their first salutes as newly commissioned officers.

At the Air Force commissioning ceremony, Elon alumna and U.S. Air Force Major Ashton Ross advised the new officers to take seriously their obligation to take care of those who serve under them. That doesn’t mean never making a mistake, said Ross, who is the J1 branch chief, Military Readiness at the National GeoSpatial-Intelligence Agency in Springfield, Virginia.

“When you make some mistakes along the way, I made them before you did and other people will make mistakes after you,” Ross said during the morning ceremony in Whitley. “It doesn’t matter that you make mistakes. It’s what you do after.”

Related Articles

Speaking to the three new second lieutenants from Elon on Thursday afternoon, Lt. Col. Debra Graham shared a range of advice from her time in the U.S. Army. She urged them to be good communicators, develop meaningful relationships and think strategically. “We want to know what can you do,” said Graham, who serves as the commander of 5th Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Group. “We want to know that you can think through the process. I know you can. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box and challenge the system.”

Claire McGrath received her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. During the past four years, McGrath conducted research in the Chemistry Department, worked at the Truitt Center for Spiritual and Religious Life, and served in various positions in Air Force ROTC.

McGrath was commissioned into the Air Force as a force support officer and will begin her service at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. She plans to eventually continue her education by seeking a master’s degree in environmental chemistry.

Arran Ponte received her bachelor’s degree in exercise science. While attending Elon, Ponte worked as a house manager and tour guide. She is a member of Alpha Xi Delta and dances on Elon’s Finest.

Through ROTC, Ponte completed Field Training in 2021 at Camp Shelby where she was recognized as a Distinguished Graduate. Last summer Arran spent 80 hours shadowing at Pope Field’s Medical Clinic within Fort Bragg; and in the Fall Semester of 2022, she held the role of Cadet Wing Commander for her detachment. Lastly, Ponte attended the 2023 Air Force National Character and Leadership Symposium at the Air Force Academy to discuss and collaborate around the topic “Reimagine Leadership, Inspire Teamwork.”

Ponte was commissioned into the Air Force as an aerospace physiologist to train and equip aircrews for the physiological aspects of flight. She earned the 2023 Distinguished Graduate for Detachment 605 for being within the top 10 percent of cadets across the entire Air Force ROTC enterprise. Ponte begins her time in the Air Force this June at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs.

Lauren Singles received bachelor’s degrees in political science and international and global studies, and minored in German Studies and Middle East Studies. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and German Honor Society.

Singles completed Project Global Officer during two consecutive summers in a row, first studying Arabic at Virginia Military Institute and next studying at the Arabic Language Institute in Fes, Morocco. She was a Distinguished Graduate at Field Training and was named a National Distinguished Graduate for being in the top 10 percent of all graduating cadets in the country.

Singles begins her time in the Air Force at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma in Undergraduate Pilot Training. Singles will enter the Air Force’s LEAP program for Arabic and plans to continue her study of Arabic throughout her career.

Robert Dalton achieved the rank of CDT sergeant major, serving as the Aggie Battalion operations sergeant major. As a student at Elon, Dalton was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

Dalton received his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in sport management. Dalton branched Adjunct General and will attend Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Jackson in South Carolina.

Jillian Engels achieved the rank of CDT captain, serving as the Alpha Company commander. As a student at Elon, Engels was a member of the New Student Orientation organization, the sisterhood of Sigma Sigma Sigma and the Club Gymnastics team.

Engels received her bachelor’s degree in economics with minors in Asian studies and business administration. She is branched Transportation and will attend Basic Officer Leadership Course at Fort Gregg-Adams in Virginia.

Isabella Piccirilli achieved the rank of CDT lieutenant colonel, serving as the battalion commander. As a student at Elon, Piccirilli was a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honorary Society, was a student faculty member for DanceWorks, a club on campus, and has performed in many of the mainstage performing arts concerts at Elon.

Piccirilli received a bachelor of fine arts degree in dance performance & choreography as well as a bachelor of arts degree in political science. She is recognized as a Distinguished Military Graduate. Piccirilli is branched aviation and will attend Basic Officer Leadership Course and flight school at Fort Novosel in Alabama.