GCU ROTC commissions 11 to second lieutenants

GCU ROTC cadets take the oath of office to support and defend the Constitution at their commissioning ceremony at GCU.

Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by Matt Nykamp
GCU News Bureau

Bethlehem Schwab often wondered if she had it when the alarm went off before her 5:30 a.m. physical trainings. She had to strap on a loaded pack for miles of “heavy marching.”

But she had learned a lot over the years – and hard miles – in the Grand Canyon University Army ROTC, and one thing she learned was confidence.

“I thought, ‘I can do this.’”

She did.

Schwab and 10 other cadets were appointed to lead enlisted personnel as second lieutenants in the Army at the GCU Army ROTC Thunder Battalion Commissioning Ceremony on Thursday morning at GCU Hotel.

Bethlehem Schwab (center) is flanked by parents John and Kelly Schwab after her pinning ceremony.

Her parents, John and Kelly Schwab, pinned her uniform with a new rank in another big day for the Colorado family. Older brothers Andrew and Clay are also GCU graduates who earned the rank through the ROTC. And her father went to West Point.

Military service has been a big part of the family she joined after her birth parents in Ethiopia died when she was young and she was adopted by the Schwabs.

But she said there was no pressure to fall in line with the family military careers. She felt like it was something she needed to do to grow.

“I’m definitely not the same person I was coming into my freshman year. This conversation would have been very hard for me, so I definitely have grown as a person and as a leader,” she said. “It’s a huge milestone and accomplishment. Yes, the military is a huge duty, but I’m excited to serve and give back.”

Her father said GCU has been a blessing to his family, with another child, Peneal, in the Nursing program.

“We value military service and we love the Christian environment at Grand Canyon University, and I think that is a priority for our children’s education,” John Schwab said. “I think we have seen a great deal of character and leadership development that come through this program.”

Bethlehem Schwab said she is interviewing for jobs in business with her new Hospitality Management/Entrepreneurial Studies degree while she also serves in the Army Reserves as an adjutant general.

The morning ceremony was filled with proud parents, wives, girlfriends and sons pinning the gold bar on uniforms, and with praise from University and military leaders.

GCU President Brian Mueller praised the new Army leaders' service.

“For these men and women to commit themselves to their study and to their graduation and to serve in the United States Army so the rest of us can enjoy our freedoms is the ultimate sacrifice,” said GCU President Brian Mueller. “We are extremely proud of you.”

Service is the foundation of GCU, he said, and “nobody exemplifies that foundation, and that willingness to serve, like these men and women.”

Retired Lt. Col. Kenneth W. Hein’s speech to the group was filled with leadership advice from his 42 years of service.

“If nothing else, the upheaval we’ve experienced over the last 14 months has taught us that the operative word is flexible. We have to be flexible. We have to be prepared,” he said.

When bad things happen, “we don’t stop, we press on.”

He added, “That’s excellent training for what lies ahead of you.”

He urged the new officers to live each day fully but to watch their tongue, which can be a weapon more dangerous than artillery, and face social occasions with “Sprite and ginger ale.”

It was his way of stressing the importance of character, citing Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s famous 1962 speech on duty, honor and country, saying those words “make you strong enough to know when you are weak and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.”

Hein said the Bible is the best leadership manual. He was baptized at age 40 and “it changed everything.”

And he offered 10 two-letter words that guide him in taking responsibility as a leader:

“If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Bijan Shokrgozar (center) is flanked by son Jayden and wife Alicia at the pinning ceremony.

Few know that better than a motivated Bijan Shokrgozar.

He became a second lieutenant for active duty field artillery when his son Jayden loudly slapped the pin on the chest of his father at eye level.

“He knows when you put it on your chest, you’re supposed to hit it, so he gave it a thump to seal it,” said Shokrgozar.

He set an example for his boy by winning the honor of Distinguished Military Graduate that goes to the top 20 percent of cadets in the U.S. for grades, overall evaluation and physical fitness.

Shokrgozar was especially stellar in the latter category, scoring 582 out of 600 in the Army Combat Fitness Test, the highest of the ASU/GCU Battalion.

“You should see our garage,” said his wife, Alicia. “It’s a gym.”

Shokrgozar said he missed the military after serving for 10 years and two deployments and is looking forward to returning as a leader in field artillery at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.

“When I was younger, I didn’t know I had a calling; I just stumbled upon it and found out what I was good at,” he said.

Today, he’s more aware of his purpose.

“I’m just humbled and excited,” he said. “I’m ready to get back in the Army and be a leader.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

The following GCU graduates became second lieutenants in the U.S. Army:

Janiell Ancheta, BS in Business Marketing, National Guard, armor

Tyreanna Dumas, BS in Exercise Science, active duty, field artillery

Cedric Freeman, BS in Exercise Science, active duty, ordnance

Jordan Joseph, BS in Criminal Justice, active duty, Signal Corps/branch detail, field artillery

Joshua Rodriguez, BS in Psychology, active duty, armor

Bethlehem Schwab, BS in Hospitality Management/Entrepreneurial Studies, Army Reserves, adjutant general

Bijan Shokrgozar, BS in Business Management, active duty, field artillery

Tyler Stubbert, BS in Nursing, active duty, Nursing Corps

Mary Tosi, BS in Nursing, active duty, Nursing Corps

Blaine Vance, BS in Business Management, active duty, infantry

Trevor Grittman, BS in Mechanical Engineering, active duty, field artillery


Related content:

GCU Today: Bethlehem’s amazing journey from Ethiopia to GCU

GCU Today: Pandemic perseverance: 5 Lopes who led the way


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