Travis Newman hoped that his first time receiving a salute from a noncommissioned officer wouldn’t be awkward.
When the time came Friday for Newman, a newly commissioned second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, to be saluted by Staff Sgt. Michael Williams, Newman returned the salute perfectly.
Newman was the first Rocky Mountain College student to be commissioned as a second lieutenant under the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps since the program returned to Billings five years ago.
Saturday, when he walks across the stage at Rocky to become his family’s first college graduate, will be another big day for Newman.
Also commissioned during a Friday ceremony were Montana State University Billings students Cody Fryxell and Jacob Ciesielczyk, both 22.
They join the ranks of several other MSU Billings graduates commissioned in recent years.
The men are among the 24 cadets in the MSU Billings Bravo Company, which is part of the Bobcat Battalion at Montana State University in Bozeman.
Newman’s wife, Amanda, proudly pinned second lieutenant’s shoulder boards on her husband’s black dress uniform jacket.
Their 11-month-old daughter, Grace, also attended the ceremony.
Before an audience of family, cadets, students, professors and dignitaries, the three men were sworn in.
Billings Mayor Tom Hanel told the new officers that they will be in public eye and some people may criticize them.
Even though public service is not easy, he encouraged them to consider a military career because “nothing will make them prouder later in life.”
Newman came to Rocky four years ago from Auburn, Wash., to study environmental management and policy.
He joined the Rocky-MSU Billings ROTC program and the Montana National Guard, inspired by a brother who is in the Washington National Guard.
“I always wanted to serve,” he said.
This week is special for him, because “I never was sure I’d make it this far,” he said. Coming from a low-income family, he worried about paying for college, but ROTC and academic scholarships and loans made it possible.
After a basic officer leadership course at Fort Lee in Virginia, he and his family will move to Fort Drum, N.Y., where he will join the 10th Mountain Division.
Ciesielczyk and Fryxell will graduate from MSU Billings on Saturday morning.
Ciesielczyk, from Seymour, Wis, will join the Indiana National Guard military police after working a few months to pay down school debt and completing officer training.
He joined ROTC to stay in shape and found that the discipline demanded by the program appealed to him. The history major also enjoyed learning about the Army’s role in U.S. history.
He hopes to teach history.
Fryxell received an additional honor Friday when he received the distinguished ROTC graduate award because he is among the top 10 percent of all such graduates in the country this year.
Growing up in Plains in Western Montana, Fryxell played sports. He joined ROTC at MSU Billings because he missed the structure of team sports.
He also enjoyed the challenge of leading other cadets.
Fryxell, who majored in political science and Spanish at MSU Billings, will report May 11 to Fort Benning, Ga., for officer training.