By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (June 15, 2017) -- The Army turned 242 years old yesterday, and in conjunction with this momentous occasion, 35 future Soldiers from around the country opted to raise their hands and join a life of service.
Unlike the oath of enlistment taken by most future Soldiers, however, this one was administered by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley during a twilight tattoo ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
During the tattoo, the Army not only recognized its 242 years of existence, but also commemorated a century of the "modern" Army and total force -- born as a result of World War I. In fact, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, and the theme for this year's Army birthday is "Over There! A celebration of the WWI Soldier."
Before Milley administered the oath to the future Soldiers, he explained to several hundred attendees at the ceremony the significance of the words the future Soldiers would recite.
"It's a solemn oath," he said, noting that the president, senators, cabinet members, and even he had taken a similar oath.
And among the nearly 190 nations on earth, he said, "We are the only country whose military ... takes an oath not to a king or a queen, or a dictator or to a government ... we're the only country that takes an oath to an idea."
That idea, Milley said, is embedded in the U.S. Constitution.
"That idea is incredibly powerful," he said. "It's an idea that has given birth to nations, ourselves included. It's an idea that puts fear into the hearts of our foes. An idea that they are so scared of they are willing to strap on suicide vests and blow themselves up to defeat this idea. And it's an idea that those of us in uniform are sworn to protect and defend, even at the cost of our life. That's the oath they are about to take."
The idea, Milley said, is simple: equality.
"In these United States, in this country for which you and I are willing to die ... for which those 35 are signing up to defend: every single one of us is created by God and the laws of this land to be free and equal. That is the idea of America."
Among the 35 enlistees, Milley said, there were 18 who will go into the Regular Army, seven who will go into the Army Reserve, and ten who will go into the Army National Guard. The pool of future Soldiers, he said, represents the total force.
Those future Soldiers, he said, chose to enlist into 21 different military occupational specialties, and come from five different states, the District of Columbia, and multiple nations. Among the future Soldiers were representatives from Egypt, Morocco, Mexico, Jamaica, Ghana and Cameroon.
While there was great diversity amongst them in where they came from and where they go while in the Army, Milley said, "All of them know full well the hazards of their chosen profession on which they are about to embark. I want to thank all of them for the service they are going to render to our nation in the years to come."
Among those who took the oath was Brittany S. Miller, of Chesapeake Beach, Md.
"I want to travel and just get into something," Miller said of her choice to enlist. She also has family in the service, she said, adding that "I want to do something honorable."
Miller said she leaves home for basic training June 20, and has chosen chemical operations specialist as her military occupational specialty.
"There's different parts of the job," she said. "But one of them is going out to the field and getting samples if a bomb is dropped, and stuff like that. There's also lab time, decontamination of vehicles and people that come from bomb sites."
She said she's enlisted now for three years, but "I want to see if I like the job that I have, and if so, then I'll probably re-enlist."
Abdullah A. McKinney came from Brooklyn, N.Y., originally. But he lives now in Maryland.
"I joined the Army to travel the world and help pay for college," he said.
Initially, he said, he's chosen combat engineer as his career field. But he said while he's in the Army he hopes to earn an engineering degree and become an officer, so he can be the kind of engineer that builds structures rather than demolish them. He said also that he hopes to serve in the Army for a full 20 years or more. He ships for basic training July 11.
Not even a Soldier for a day, McKinney said he recognized the significance of being sworn in by the Army's chief of staff.
"This is really big, and I'm glad to be a part of this," he said. "Not a lot of people get the opportunity to be sworn in by the chief of staff. I'm glad I get the chance."
Tate A. Perusse, from Lexington Park, Md., graduated high school a year ago. For him, there was some time between high school and the Army. But that time wasn't wasted, he said.
In addition to doing a year of college, he also prepared himself to be accepted into the Army as a warrant officer candidate. When Perusse finally arrives at his first duty station, he said, he expects to be flying Black Hawk helicopters.
Getting to where he wants to go in the Army has not been easy so far, he said.
"I had to get a lot of letters of recommendation, and I had to go to a board and I was interviewed," he said. "It was a long process and it took about a year. I'm just waiting to ship at this point."
After basic training, he said, it'll be warrant officer school and then flight school. He said he expects to be in the cockpit within 18 months.
After the 35 future Soldiers took the oath of enlistment, they were treated to a twilight tattoo ceremony, performed by members of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). The tattoo was hosted by Acting Secretary of the Army Robert M. Speer, and was held in honor of the Army's 242nd birthday.