UMSL graduates (from left) Eric Messmer, Tasha Hack and Timothy Iuchs became the Army’s newest second lieutenants at commissioning ceremonies held May 14. All three participated in the Army’s Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, a rigorous leadership training program, in addition to completing their bachelor’s degrees at UMSL. Over the next few weeks they will leave to complete their active duty requirements as officers in the U.S. Army. (Photo by Dan Younger)

In unison, they said they were “excited” completing one big phase of their life and starting another. Tasha Hack, Timothy Iuchs and Eric Messmer became the U.S. Army’s newest second lieutenants May 14 at commissioning ceremonies for the 96th Gateway Battalion Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Washington University in St. Louis.

The three new officers, all graduating seniors at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, will be reporting for new military duty in the next few weeks armed with a bachelor’s degree and the responsibilities of leadership asked of very few citizens.

“Aside from sharing peanut M&Ms and a bag of chips, the life of a typical college student doesn’t come anywhere close to that of a ROTC cadet,” Maj. Thomas Tabaka, professor of military science in the Gateway Battalion told the 13 cadets, their families and friends. He spoke of the “stringent standards” of their training and the “non-negotiable seriousness” of their service. Their duties, he said, will include “responsibility for the lives of your fellow soldiers.”

The first test of duty under pressure for the new officers was trying to answer to family and friends vying for their attention at the ceremony. In addition to UMSL, ROTC cadets receiving their commissions May 14 attended Washington University in St. Louis and Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. Extra sets of relatives and friends were in town to also attend graduation ceremonies scheduled over the weekend at all three universities.

2nd Lt. Timothy Iuchs stands at attention as his wife, Becky, pins on the gold bars designating his rank. Daughters Charlotte, 5, and Olivia, 3 provide moral support. (Photo by Dan Younger)

Hack, 27, received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from UMSL May 17 and has been assigned to the Texas Army National Guard with the Army Nurse Corps.

The day offered excitement along with some time for reflection for Hack who already has four years of service in the Army Reserves.

“The demands of a nursing student and trying to juggle ROTC were very challenging,” she said. “Today was the result of all the sacrifices I have made to become an Army officer commissioned into the Nurse Corps.”

Iuchs, 29, enlisted in the Army right out of high school. Thanks to an Army ROTC bridge program he transferred to UMSL two years ago to complete a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies. He’ll be heading off to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker in Dale County, Ala.

Iuchs said he was honored to be part of the Gateway Battalion and to become a U.S. Army officer

“I’m ready to take on the new challenges and opportunities I’ll be facing. I’ll be piloting helicopters in the future,” he said with a wide grin.

Messmer, 24, is the first person in his family to serve in the military and the first to graduate from a university. The whole week, he said, “is a really big deal for everyone in my family.”

Messmer has been assigned to Jefferson Barracks in Lemay, Mo., as a signal officer in the Army National Guard.

Messmer joined the ROTC program before he came to UMSL two years ago as a criminology and criminal justice major.

“Coming to UMSL allowed me to continue with ROTC and pursue a career in criminology, something I’ve always been interested in,” said Messmer. “My goal is to work in the field on the federal level.”

ROTC classes were first offered at UMSL in 1977. Gateway Battalion opened an extension center at UMSL in 1980 and began offering military science courses in 2004. In 2012, the university opened the Veterans Center to house the ROTC offices and handle some of the needs of the more than 400 veterans now attending UMSL. Last year UMSL launched the Department of Military and Veterans Studies chaired by retired lieutenant colonel James Craig.

The UMSL Experience

Maureen Zegel

Maureen Zegel

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.