CHARLESTON, S.C. --
For the Office of Special Investigations commander, the event rekindled fond memories of where his military career began nearly 30 years ago.
On May 15, 1993, then newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Terry L. Bullard entered the military as a Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program at The Citadel – The Military College of South Carolina. He was then directly accessed into OSI.
Now Brig. Gen. Bullard, with his retirement nearing, returned to his alma mater as the OSI commander, to deliver the keynote address to the newly minted officers in the graduating Class of 2023, during their Military Joint Commissioning Ceremony in McAlister Field House May 5.
“I can’t begin to tell you what an honor it is to be back here with you on this incredibly special day,” Bullard said. “In fact, I found it hard to believe 30 years have passed since I sat right where you are – wondering what the future would bring.”
Bullard recounted the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Africa, and the game-changing events of 9/11 and the wars that followed, that transpired between his Citadel graduation and present day, and how he and his classmates’ careers, and our nation’s history, were shaped by the new national security posture that resulted from those tragic events.
“Future leaders, I give you this piece of history not to pull you back,” he said, “but to help you set a frame of reference to keep your gaze wide for the future you now own.”
Bullard told the 179 new second lieutenants and ensigns representing the five Armed Forces branches, they enter the military at an incredibly complex time in our Nation’s history and around the world. He described the times as having tremendous strategic ambiguity and that these new leaders must help us find our way through them.
“You will now find yourself at the center of making that happen as our next generation of heroes of both future thought and future deed,” the OSI commander said. “Your challenges are many – and your future, our future, is wide open to so many potential possibilities.”
Bullard went on to say The Citadel has prepared them well.
“You have been tested and pushed and challenged, likely sometimes to what you thought was your breaking point – physically, mentally and perhaps even spiritually,” he said. “But, you have survived every trial, and I assure you that you have learned more than you think – and you are better prepared then you give yourself credit for. The standards of this institution are rigorous. They would not allow you to stand among the ranks of those who came before if you were not ready.”
Bullard added that their preparation does not end at graduation.
“As you continue to learn and prepare, do not underestimate the immense value relationships will bring – to include your classmates. Seek out mentors and cultivate your professional network. Every person you encounter has something to teach you,” he emphasized. “Learning from them will make you a better leader, a better officer, and a better American.”
Prior to administering the oath, Bullard told the graduates they are ready.
“The future of our Armed Forces, and of our country belongs to you,” he said. “I am proud to stand with you, and proud to have you join me in the long grey line.”
After receiving their Commissioning Certificates, the graduates executed their First Salute on The Citadel’s Summerall Field.
The First Salute is an important military tradition where newly commissioned officers present a silver dollar to the non-commissioned officer having the most profound effect on them during their pre-commissioning training. This coin represents the deep-felt gratitude for the mentorship and lessons imparted by the NCO. The coin symbolically acknowledges the receipt of respect due the new rank and position.
The scene returned to McAlister Field House the following day for the Commencement Ceremonies for the South Carolina Corps of Cadets and the Citadel Graduate College Class of 2023.
According to its website, The Citadel offers a classic military college education for students focused on leadership excellence and academic distinction. The approximately 2,300 members of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets are not required to serve in the military, but about one-third of each class earn commissions to become officers in every branch of the U.S. military.