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Wine bar on 2200 Penn opens doors
By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Secretary of the Navy urges new officers to recognize their responsibility

Olivia Anderson | Photo Editor
Richard Spencer, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, addresses newly commissioned officers and ensigns from GW, Howard and Georgetown universities.

Fifteen midshipmen from the Capital Battalion Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps were commissioned early Friday morning at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theater.

Students from GW, Howard and Georgetown universities took an oath of office and were commissioned as either an ensign or second lieutenant. More than 100 audience members turned out to the theater after the event was relocated from the Lincoln Memorial because of rain.

Here are a few takeaways from the speakers:

1. Valuing the family

The event began with a short invocation followed by opening remarks from Major Sarah Culbertson. Gary Patenaude, the commanding officer of the Capital Battalion, then said that though the graduates will always have their families to support and share their achievements, their move to the Navy will form new relationships with those under their command.

“Sooner or later, they will belong to a bigger family,” Patenaude said. “They will belong to the nation.”

Richard Spencer, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, said that though the graduates have amassed a wealth of knowledge and leadership skills during their education, they shouldn’t forget the family members and friends that guided them to success. He said each graduate has at least one mentor who has supported them through their highs and lows – and they should use both actions and words to show their gratitude.

“I never ever would’ve thought I would be addressing you here as Secretary of the Navy,” Spencer said. “But now, even I am well aware that I did not get here alone.”

2. Being responsible for others

While the graduates’ training has given them the skills to lead, Spencer said that listening to others in their command will be important. Spencer said learning from successes and failures will strengthen them as they continue to grow as leaders.

“From the moment you step foot on your first command you’ll be responsible for others,” he said. “Your decisions, your actions, your guidance will impact their lives and the lives of their families.”

Trust will be the most valuable skill going forward on the graduates’ path and if graduates can gain trust, they will hold the respect of the nation, Spencer said.

“Our greatest strength in the enterprise is our people, please do not ever forget that,” Spencer said. “You will be challenged and you will challenge others.”

3. Onto new voyages

New officers should be prepared to face challenging battlegrounds from “cyberspace to outer space,” Spencer said.

Two graduates will be stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, while others will take off to flight school in Pensacola, Fla. or the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va. As the new officers spread out around the world, Spencer said that this commission is just the start of their new careers.

“During your career, you must foster a spirit of achievement in every single assignment that you take,” he said. “The ships and bases you will find yourselves on matter less than the attitude and the effort you bring to your command.”

The 15 graduates were then granted handshakes and emotional hugs with their families, and later, graduates committed their first salutes to the first service member who had an impact on them.

“Welcome to the fleet,” Spencer said. “And as your direct boss, I can say, let’s get to work.”

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at:

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