Reflective Belts, Risk Management Required After ROTC Commissioning Tragedy Paul May 21, 2012 Army 23 Comments Follow Duffel Blog: TAMPA, FL – It’s graduation season at colleges across the nation, and for the cadets of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, it means the start of their Army career. But what is supposed to be a joyous occasion and a proud moment for new Second Lieutenants has taken a turn into disaster at one ceremony, prompting the Army to review safety for commissioning cadets. Over thirty new officers were supposed to be commissioned at the University of Tampa. “This is our favorite time of the year,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Olson, the commander of the ‘Spartan Battalion’ ROTC Detachment. “It’s always an honor to see these men and women grow and learn and start their careers. But it’s a shock when we have a mishap.” The Spartan Battalion had been mishap-free for over three years — but their luck ran out at the commissioning ceremony weeks ago. One lieutenant fell off the stage right after being commissioned, breaking his back and bringing an immediate medical discharge. Another didn’t place the coin in his hand properly for the handshake. Instead of it being transferred harmlessly to the enlisted man who gave him his first salute, the silver dollar went flying into the crowd, striking a retired Sergeant Major in the head, killing him instantly. “Pa always said that the most dangerous thing in the Army was a new second lieutenant,” said Jane Hester, the man’s daughter. “I just can’t believe he was killed by one right after he was commissioned. Couldn’t he at least wait until he reported in?” But those weren’t the only problems. The training cadre were able to convince the CENTCOM Commander — Marine General James Mattis — to make an appearance, and to offer words of encouragement to the new officers. “My fine young men and women,” said Gen. Mattis, “congratulations on your achievement and for your dedication to our country.” He continued his speech, but as he looked out into the crowd, however, he saw something he didn’t like — one lieutenant who had fallen asleep. “I told them to pay attention to the General. I gave them a safety brief on it,” said Olson. “With all the men General Mattis has killed with his bare hands, I figure he wouldn’t have any problems with killing a second lieutenant. Turns out I was right.” Soon after noticing the snoozing cadet, Mattis threw down his speech notes, reached into his dress blue jacket to grab a Ka-Bar fighting knife, and jumped into the front row on top of Cadet Ted Eldridge. “I honestly was just going to scare him,” said Mattis, “you know, make the knife across the neck motion and say ‘This is what the enemy will do if you want to take a nap'; that sort of thing. Turns out I got a little too close to the neck. Guess I’m just getting old.” One Second Lieutenant, having been commissioned earlier in the year, returned to the university to see Eldridge earn his shoulder boards. “That shit was fuckin’ bananas,” said 2nd Lt. Jed Eckert. “I’m sort of bummed having come all the way from Italy — instead of my bro getting commissioned, he gets killed by a General. In hindsight, I guess it’s a great story to go back and tell my platoon to reinforce the importance of staying awake on post.” Officials at the Department of the Army were upset over the losses to the officer corps. A KIA and WIA in addition to one cadet being brought up on murder charges was regretful — but one other mishap was “completely understandable,” according to Sergeant First Class Ian Poloquin of Army Public Affairs. General Mattis speaking, shortly before he leapt into the crowd to kill a cadet The incident that didn’t surprise the Army were seven cadets who got lost trying to find the theater across from the University of Tampa. “We gave them clear instructions. Go across campus and across one street and there’s the theater,” said Olson, “but with land navigation, it’s definitely a struggle for some.” The seven never made it to the ceremony. Disoriented and confused, they struggled to make their way to the theater, and at one point, attempted to cross the Hillsborough River next to the campus. Their bodies have not yet been found. To minimize the losses in preparation for fall commissioning ceremonies, the Army has started a review of policies for safety and risk management protocol. Initial suggestions included the requirement for all cadets to wear their reflective belts as soon as they get dressed the morning of the ceremony, extensive risk management paperwork requirements, and the use of enlisted guides to help navigate the new lieutenants to the ceremony. They’ve also done away with the silver dollar coin, and will require a plastic poker chip instead. “We think these steps will help keep the cadets safe, and the use of enlisted guides is one of the best changes to minimize risks,” said Poloquin, “and besides, it’s what already happens in the Army throughout the world.” Don't miss the next story.Get the latest news and alerts from Duffel Blog delivered to your inbox—free. Short URL: http://duffelblog.com/PIqz7 Angry Warrant says: October 5, 2014 at 6:14 PM I always asked for a Cadet when they were passing them out to the other Officers. They never gave me one. I did manage to take my XO’s Cadet to lunch at the chow hall. I think I set him up for the rest of his career. Or his first DUI. Either way, we had a a rousing meal of corned beef hash with sausage links and extra Texas Pete… David May says: April 14, 2014 at 11:09 PM HA HA! I wish I could say that the land nav part was a joke, but I’ve seen it happen with my own two eyes. Jere Hodges Jr. says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM Ya know.. if you can get past the clear sandbrain jarhead bias of the piece.. that was actually funny. Megan Gillard says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM I love this site. Jose Vega says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM wow… this is crazy… I haven’t laughed this hard all day, lmao! Jennifer McMillen says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM LOL wow. That was hilarious. I was having a hard time even reading the whole thing. Chad E Prevatte says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM Completely fake and a total disgrace !! Pepe Tandazo says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM Starting this fall. Get ready new LT’s Mark Fisette says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM I knew coins where a problem! Chad Underdonk says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM 2nd Lieutenant Jed Eckert was later heard to be screaming “Wolverines” as he charged a Latin-American political rally down the street. Taree Johnson says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM Hahaha, Natasha Ingram! Donald Gerdes says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM the worst part is, that pt belt doesn’t even look photoshopped, and even knowing that it is, it’s still believable. Michael Hasbun says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM Now THAT was frickin hilarious… and there is just no way we should be bombarded with “is this for real?” messages… Though I highly suggest that, if we do get any of those, that those individuals be taken for immediate sterilization… =o) Jon Kovach says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM For my fellow ROTC-ers. With Steve Harmon; Peter Gray; Shane Ousey; Roy Stoehr; Keith Hudson; Victoria Ferreira Prichett; Michael Gigis. Rich Butela says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM Laughed so hard I had tears running out of my eyes. That Gen Mattis guy really gets around….. Adam K Bice says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM This is the best article I’ve seen on TDB – or, honestly, anywhere else – in a long time. Had me laughing out loud (very loud) more than once. And it was the parts where people died that made me laugh the hardest. Holy shit, WHAT HAVE I BECOME? Chris StCyr says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM The poker chip is eh. An AFFES Pog would have been funnier. Hugo Meza says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM Is this true? Aryk Bingham says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM I go to UT and did not hear about this at all… Jordan Welbes says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM I was in that graduating class. I know its not serious but I still don’t appreciate it. Hunter Miller says: February 26, 2014 at 12:09 AM Reminds me of my LT in Kosovo when he told us to walk through a minefield. I said but sir this is a mined area. He said how do you know that? I said… Sir do you see that yellow tape? He said…. yes. Well sir that says mines in Russian. Leave it to a SPC 4 to save the day. Sad but true! Dallas says: May 21, 2012 at 5:36 PM The two most dangerous ranks in the Army are gold in color.