Two University of Arkansas – Fort Smith graduates were honored with a ceremony May 12 signaling the end of their participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at UAFS and their commissioning as second lieutenants in the armed forces.


Samuel Lisk of Greenwood, a chemistry major, was commissioned as a quartermaster into the Army National Guard, while Adrian Whitaker of Fort Smith, a criminal justice major, was commissioned as military police with the Army Reserves.


Pinning on Lisk’s bars was his mother, Ann Lisk, and Senior Master Sgt. Charley Parnell rendered the first salute. Pinning on Whitaker’s bars were his mother, Suzanne Whitaker, and his fiancée, Elizabeth Sisemore, and 1st Sgt. Sean Fry rendered the first salute.


Lisk said he always knew he was going to join the military, as the opportunity aligned with his goals and interests.


“As a cadet, I never felt worthy of the appreciation I received when on campus in my uniform,” Lisk said. “I’d like to think that this is the first of many steps in earning that appreciation, serving my men, and making the country better one step at a time.”


Whitaker heard about ROTC when he was a student at Northside High School and entered the program to earn a college degree while advancing in the military.


“I am excited to be taking my first steps on the road to serving my country and hope to be an officer that will change the lives of those I serve with for the better,” Whitaker said. “To finally be receiving my commission after these four years is a milestone that will not be easily overshadowed.”


U.S. Rep. Steve Womack served as the guest speaker at the ceremony, where he lauded the graduates and outlined challenges they will face in their military careers.


“I’ve always had a jealous regard for young men like these. Willing to make a difference for their country,” he said. “It comes from a sincere desire of mine to make sure our men and women in uniform have the very best leadership that our country can offer. The decisions that these young officers will make could indeed be matters of life and death for those that they lead. Those soldiers deserve nothing but the best. I’m confident that the two you have before you today fit that category.”


Alluding to “saber rattling” from countries across the world, Womack stressed that the current political situation is a “complex threat environment,” and also pointed out that tight budgets and a new generation create additional challenges for military members.


“This isn’t your grandfather’s world,” he said. “The demands and challenges of leading millennials is different, much different than when I was commissioned.”


Womack closed his speech by giving advice to Lisk and Whitaker: write out their leadership philosophies, champion their non-commissioned officers, and “underwrite errors of enthusiasm.”


Lisk and Whitaker took their oaths of office during the ceremony and recited their federal oaths of office during the university’s commencement ceremonies May 13.


ROTC is a program through the U.S. Army that allows university students to take elective leadership classes in the hopes of transitioning to officer positions with the armed forces following graduation. The commissioning ceremony signifies such a transition. The ROTC program began at UAFS in 2008.