5 new UMSL grads to accept mantle of military leadership

Along with their UMSL degrees, ROTC cadets (from left) Lucas Elberfeld, Jared Dillmon, Steven Galbraith and Andrew Potts are earning their officer stripes. Together with fellow graduate and cadet Katie Kluthe (not pictured), they comprise UMSL’s largest commissioning class in over a decade. (Photo by Evie Hemphill)

Along with their UMSL degrees, ROTC cadets (from left) Lucas Elberfeld, Jared Dillmon, Steven Galbraith and Andrew Potts are earning their officer stripes. Together with fellow graduate and cadet Katie Kluthe (not pictured), they comprise UMSL’s largest commissioning class in over a decade. (Photo by Evie Hemphill)

Graduating senior Steven Galbraith will be celebrating not one but two major milestones this month with family and friends.

That’s because in addition to earning his history degree and a pair of minors in economics and Japanese from the University of Missouri­–St. Louis, Galbraith just finished several intensive years of ROTC training as well.

Next week he and four other UMSL graduates will be among the St. Louis region’s 2017 class of cadets receiving their first salutes as commissioned officers in the U.S. military.

“It’s of the same significance as graduating, because it’s been a long road to get to where we are now,” says Galbraith, who will head to Arizona in June for military intelligence training. “They don’t just commission anybody. If you’re a commissioned officer, you literally get your commission from the president of the United States, so it’s a special trust and an important job and position.”

Becoming second lieutenants alongside Galbraith at a ceremony set for May 17 at Saint Louis University will be fellow UMSL scholars Lucas Elberfeld, Katie Kluthe and Andrew Potts, who are each earning their BS in criminology and criminal justice from the university this spring. All of them are headed into various branches of the U.S. Army.

At another ceremony later in the week, UMSL graduate and soon-to-be-commissioned U.S. Air Force officer Jared Dillmon will receive his gold bars before moving to Pensacola, Florida, for training in combat systems. Dillmon completed two degrees from UMSL – in criminology and finance  – in May 2016 and December 2016, respectively.

After four years of hard work in ROTC alongside five years toward his academic majors, the fact that he’s all done hasn’t really sunk in yet.

“I mean, that’s it,” Dillmon says. “Once I put the bars on during the ceremony, I’m done with ROTC. And just today we had our last PT [physical training] session.”

Like many UMSL students, these five have juggled multiple responsibilities during their years on campus, and they’ve done it well. They credit ROTC itself for helping them develop that ability to prioritize, plan ahead and multitask.

“It’s helped me with not just becoming an Army officer but in getting things done,” says Potts, who will serve as a reservist while also pursuing a career as a civilian police officer. “You have PT three times a week, you have class two times a week, you have lab once a week – and all the off days are preparing for those things.”

The added commitment has also made college more affordable, with many of the cadets receiving full tuition and some funding toward living expenses during their time at UMSL. But their reasons for choosing UMSL don’t end there.

“UMSL’s a very affordable option for education, but a lot of the programs are also really highly ranked. And I like the feel of the campus compared to other campuses in the area,” says Galbraith, who is from Wisconsin. “It’s very easy to fit in here, it’s very diverse, and that’s one of the things I like most – there’s so many different kinds of people here from all walks of life, and that very much mirrors the military.”

Meanwhile, they’ve gained one another’s trust and friendship while pursuing leadership skills and military science together. Galbraith, Potts and Elberfeld have served on the Gateway Battalion’s cadet-driven staff as Army ROTC upperclassmen.

“We essentially run the entire detachment,” Galbraith explains. “We’ve gotten to know each other really well because we plan everything.”

“I’m the master fitness trainer, or I was – I’m retired now,” Elberfeld chimes in with a smile, remembering that he just turned in his gear and is officially done with ROTC except for next week’s ceremony.

He’s soon headed to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for five and a half months before moving on to South Korea as he joins the chemical corps.

From Army intelligence to Air Force systems navigation to military police, the range of roles they’re now preparing for demonstrates just how many different kinds of jobs exist within the military.

“I think we’re a picture of that, because a lot of people have the misconception about the military that all we do is just go out and blow up things – which is true, that’s obviously an essential component,” Galbraith says. “But there’s a whole lot more that goes into supporting all of the missions that we do.”

There’s also room for a lot of job growth and various opportunities down the road, adds Potts, who along with Galbraith completed a Pierre Laclede Honors College certificate at UMSL, too.

“For MPs [military police], we have a thing called CID – and that’s the criminal investigative division,” he says. “It’s similar to civilian police, where you go from patrol to being a detective, and that’s what I’m hoping to get into, but we’ll see.”

While the cadets express confidence and excitement about their next steps, those who have been particularly involved on UMSL’s campus say they will miss the place and its people as they move on.

Elberfeld and Potts describe it as a very military-friendly university, particularly with the Student Veterans Association and mentors such as Jim Craig and Rebecca McMenamin as resources. Galbraith echoes those sentiments.

“We really appreciate everything they’ve done for us over at the Veterans Center,” says Galbraith, who is also involved on campus as president of the Japan-America Student Association. “UMSL’s been really good to me, and I’m going to be sad to leave, even though it’s time.”

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