‘Ready To Serve’: ROTC Grads Commissioned As Officers

After the Vietnam War, both of Timothy Vu’s grandfathers, who were officers in the South Vietnamese army, were forced into “re-education” camps in Vietnam – essentially held as political prisoners – before immigrating to the United States.

As an Army cadet in Cornell’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Tri-Service Brigade, Vu ’24 studied Vietnamese to improve his fluency. For the first time, he was able to talk to his grandparents in depth about their experiences during and after the war, hearing stories that resonated far beyond what he’d learned in history classes.

“Hearing it firsthand from someone in their native language is very different, and it was very touching and pretty deep,” said Vu, a Cornell Engineering student from Oakton, Virginia. “It felt more real, their experiences, and how lucky I am to have this environment where everything is safe and I can pursue my education and achieve all my goals. I’m very grateful for that and for their sacrifice.”

Graduating students at ROTC Commissioning shaking hands

Credit: Ryan Young/Cornell University

Army 2nd Lt. Timothy Vu ’24, at left, receives congratulations after a May 24 commissioning ceremony hosted by Cornell’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Tri-Service Brigade.

During a May 24 ceremony in Alice Statler Auditorium, as his grandparents watched via a livestream, Vu’s cousin, an Army officer, administered an oath of office and Vu’s parents and sister pinned rank bars on his dress uniform shoulders, designating him a second lieutenant. After completing an engineering master’s degree in computer science at Cornell, Vu will begin serving as a cyber warfare officer in the Army Reserves while working for Microsoft. He was one of 21 graduating members of the Tri-Service Brigade, including 19 from Cornell, to receive commissions as officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Space Force.

“These are dangerous and uncertain times that we live in, and we must begin in our service with our eyes wide open to the growing strength and sophistication of our adversaries,” said Carly Powers ’24, an ILR School student from Alameda, California, and the brigade’s outgoing commander. “We should have the confidence and trust in our organization’s ability to handle any challenge that may come our way.”

Carly Powers hugging her mother

Credit: Ryan Young/Cornell University

Receiving her commission as a Navy ensign and submarine officer, Carly Powers ’24, the Tri-Service Brigade’s outgoing commander, received a hug from her mother, retired Coast Guard Cmdr. Susan Powers.

Powers, whose mother is a retired Coast Guard officer, was commissioned as a Navy ensign and will attend Nuclear Power School in South Carolina before serving as a submarine officer.

Navy Rear Admiral Craig T. Mattingly, commander of the Naval Service Training Command and the ceremony’s guest of honor, told the commissioning class to center care and competence as leaders.

“I’m proud of the decisions that each of you made years ago to get here today,” Mattingly said. “You chose to serve your country. You chose a life of service to something greater than yourself. Thank you.”

After a difficult first year of college spent online and isolated as the pandemic dragged on, Calvin Fairchild ’24 questioned whether to remain in ROTC. But the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) student from Lake Placid, New York, said a summer training experience with the Marines helped forge something that had felt lacking: purpose.

Calvin Fairchild saluting

Credit: Ryan Young/Cornell University

Marine 2nd Lt. Calvin Fairchild ’24 exchanges a first salute with Marine 1st Sgt. Shawn Green. Fairchild is bound for The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia.

“The goal has always been to leave an impact, to make the world around you better,” said Fairchild, the class’s only Marine commission. “For me, I found that purpose with the Marines, and with building up the people around me.”

The Space Force was just coming into existence when Cornell Engineering student Michael Fragano ’24, of Sandwich, Massachusetts, joined ROTC. Long fascinated by space, Fragano conducted research in Cornell’s Space Systems Design Studio for a project investigating how to use lunar regolith to build structures on the moon.

“Planes are cool, but I think I prefer rockets,” said Fragano, who is bound for training in Colorado Springs. “I’ve always been into space and enjoyed reading up on satellites, rocket developments and launches, so when I saw that I could have the opportunity to be involved in that through ROTC, I really wanted to go for it.”

Isabella LaHaye ’24 of San Antonio, Texas, who is graduating with a degree in atmospheric sciences from CALS, hadn’t planned to follow in the footsteps of her father, retired Air Force Col. Dwayne LaHaye, until figuring out how to pay for college.

Isabella LaHaye with family

Credit: Ryan Young/Cornell University

After commissioning as an Air Force second lieutenant, Isabella LaHaye ’24, of San Antonio, Texas, plans to attend training in Mississippi before stationing at a base in Montana.

“At first it was for financial reasons, but I’ve stayed because I love the community and I love service,” said LaHaye, who will train in Mississippi before stationing at a base in Montana. “I think this is really where I’m meant to me, because at the end of the day, my passion is leadership.”

Graduating and commissioning are exciting milestones, LaHaye said, especially as she and many of her classmates prepare for their first assignments as military officers this summer.

“We’re ready to serve,” she said.

Members of the Class of 2024 receiving commissions on May 24 were:

  • Army: Ryan Kim, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS); John Mather, ILR School; Julian Morales, College of Arts and Sciences (A&S); Emily Segal, ILR School; Tyler Unrath, Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy; Timothy Vu, Cornell Engineering.
  • Navy: Andrew Ding, CALS; Christopher Li, ILR School; Carly Powers, ILR School; Samantha Weil, CALS.
  • Air Force: Brenner Beard, A&S; Manvir Chahal, A&S; Isabella LaHaye, CALS; Samuel Lee, A&S; Victor Lee, A&S; Aaron Yagnik, Cornell Engineering.
  • Marines: Calvin Fairchild, CALS.
  • Space Force: Michael Fragano, Cornell Engineering; Samara Hatley, Cornell Engineering.

Also receiving commissions were:

  • Army: Paul Boutin, State University of New York at Cortland.
  • Air Force: Alexander Kinman, Binghamton University.

/Public Release. View in full here.