High moral character, academic achievement, military aptitude and demonstrated leadership ability are all attributes of Distinguished Military Graduates.
Only the top 20-percent of Army ROTC graduates nationwide achieve the prestigious designation. For the 2016-17 school year, four cadets from the Panther Battalion, the U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unit at Florida Institute of Technology, will graduate with this honor.
They are; Sarah Kaseman and Itzel Sandoval who graduated in fall 2016. And Faryn Duff and Jessica Kerney who will graduate in May.
John Hudacek is accustomed to being surrounded by impressive cadets. As the recruiting operations officer for Florida Tech’s Military Science Department he said this year was particularly notable.
“The high academic standards and excellent attention received by all of our students tend to place them towards the top of most lists but this year FIT had four students awarded this prestigious honor,” Hudacek said. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for these Panthers and we wish them well in their upcoming careers as Army officers.”
Lieutenant Colonel Terrence O’Connor, a professor of military science at Florida Tech, agreed that the four honorees were especially deserving of the designation.
“The accomplishments of these young leaders are particularly exceptional given the challenging academic and extracurricular activities of each Cadet,” O’Connor said.
Cadet Faryn Duff
“I was excited and quite surprised when I was notified of this incredible honor. I entered the ROTC without any personal prior military experience and vaguely remember my first couple weeks, feeling confused, worried and uncertain,” Duff said. “The leadership of the ROTC program quickly changed my fears into confidence and provided me experiences to help me excel. My family has a long history of military services, including my parents, my grandparents and my great uncle. Serving my country is not only an honor but somewhat of a duty to continue the legacy of our family.”
Duff, a psychology major, will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant Transportation Officer when she graduates. In addition to ROTC, she has also been a member of Florida Tech’s swim team for four years. Among Duff’s many distinctions, she supported the Cultural Language and Proficiency Mission overseas and earned her airborne wings from a foreign Special Forces unit.
“My time at FIT has served me well and has certainly built a strong foundation for my future. One major thing I learned was the importance of time management. I was on the FIT swim team during the four years, carried a full time school schedule and participated in the ROTC program, which required many extracurricular activities,” Duff said. “The knowledge I gained from my professors at FIT have prepared me with the knowledge to begin a career as a junior officer and to be able to make informed decisions as well as how to tackle various situations with confidence. “
Distinguished Military Graduates: Cadet Jessica Kerney
Nerves were at an all time high when Kerney first began her ROTC journey.
“Freshman year Duff and I were freaking out about advanced camp and spent hours trying to figure out how to pass,” Kerney said. “It’s crazy to think that we’re now less than three months from commissioning and a small step away from beginning our careers as Army Officers.”
During her time at Florida Tech, Kerney commanded the elite Ranger Company and earned the Army’s Air Assault badge by rappelling out of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter. She also competed on the school’s cheerleading team.
Kerney, a communication major, will pursue a career as an Army Aviation Officer after she graduates in May. She hopes to fly Apaches – and possibly become an astronaut.
“I wasn’t expecting Colonel O’Connor to call my name. But when he did, I immediately thanked God and looked at my family and friends,” Kerney said. “This has been one heck of a journey and receiving this honor wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
Distinguished Military Graduates: Cadet Sarah Kaseman
Kaseman earned her degree in biomedical engineering in fall, 2016. During her time at Florida Tech, she received the Battalion’s top score on the annual tactics exam given during summer training. She excelled at physical fitness and is serving in the U.S. Army Reserves as a member of a Military Intelligence Battalion.
Distinguished Military Graduates: Cadet Itzel Sandoval
Sandoval graduated with a degree in pre-medical biology in fall, 2016. In addition to taking part in a prestigious internship at Walter Reed Medical Center, she also commanded the Cadet Battalion. She is currently completing her basic officer training for the medical services corps.