AFIT graduates urged to ‘push DOD into next 30 years of transformation’

Posted Friday, April 01, 2022


Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall joins Air Force Institute of Technology leadership and this year’s distinguished graduates prior to the school’s graduation ceremony March 24 in the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Kendall was the ceremony’s guest speaker. (Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

By Caroline Clauson, 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Published 1 April 2022

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – After years of study, research, late nights and long papers, over 200 graduates crossed the stage to receive their diplomas from the Air Force Institute of Technology’s Graduate School of Engineering and Management on March 24 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

“I’m so glad we are back in this place for our commencement activities,” said Walter Jones, AFIT’s director and chancellor. “It’s been a tough couple of years, but it’s great to be back, and this atmosphere is hard to beat. I am delighted that all of you could join us to recognize the achievements of our graduating students and wish them well in their next assignments.”

The graduating class included 163 Air Force officers and eight NCOs, 25 Space Force officers, five Army officers, three Marine Corps officers and 18 civilians. One international student from South Korea also received his degree.

Of the 223 degrees awarded, the Graduate School conferred 219 master’s degrees and four doctorate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Two graduates received dual degrees, while two master’s students and seven doctoral alumni who graduated earlier in the academic year returned to participate in the ceremony.

Capt. Joshua (Alex) Rinaldi became a third-generation AFIT alum at the ceremony. His father, retired Lt. Col. Steven Rinaldi earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering in 1982 and 1987. Rinaldi’s grandfather, retired Col. Melvin Gillis, earned his master’s degree in logistics management from AFIT in 1969.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, the ceremony’s guest speaker, charged graduates to expand their new expertise into influence and recognize themselves as the catalyst for swift and innovative change that can meet current threats.

“You as AFIT graduates have the knowledge to advise your services and your nation’s leaders,” Kendall said. “Don’t be the ‘yes’ person who changes when I change and nods when I nod. You have the education and experience to be the person who uses data and reason to advise senior leaders, even when your ideas might not be popular.

“You must use this education and your ability to be an adviser and mentor and speak truth to power when you know something needs to be fixed. You are now action officers of modernization and therefore of freedom and democracy.”

Others officials in attendance included Maj. Gen. William G. Holt II, commander of the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education, as well as Air University vice commander; Heidi Ries, AFIT provost and chief academic officer; Col. Paul Harmer, Air University Detachment 1 commander; and Adedeji Badiru, dean of the Graduate School.

Located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, AFIT’s mission is to provide high-quality graduate education programs and engage in research activities that enable the Air and Space Force to maintain its scientific and technological dominance.

“We can prevail in this competition between democracy and autocracy, but we don’t have time to waste,” Kendall said. “We need your leadership and your academic background to push the Department of Defense into the next 30 years of transformation, of unbridled innovation, of capability development.

“I look to you and your generation to be the leaders we need. You will make history as those military and civilian professionals who ensure America and its allies prevail. Before you receive your graduation certificates tonight, I want you to remember that you must use this education that your service has given to you to be the voice who speaks up for the change we need. Work quickly to ensure you create or design what our services need.”

At an awards ceremony earlier in the day, the following students were recognized for their exemplary performance:

  • Capt. Andrew Dittrich from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department received the Chancellor’s Award for producing the most exceptional individual master’s thesis.
  • Capt. Samuel VonNiederhausern from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department received the Mervin E. Gross Award for his exceptional academic achievement and high qualities of character, initiative, and leadership. The award is named in honor of Brig. Gen. Mervin E. Gross, first commandant of the institute.
  • Capt. Zachary Cleveland from the Engineering Physics Department received the Louis F. Polk Award. The winner of this award exhibited the highest standards of academic and professional accomplishment and through their research made a significant contribution toward strengthening the nation’s industrial defense base.
  • Capt. Carol Bryant from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department received the Edwin E. Aldrin Sr. Award presented for displaying the most exceptional leadership characteristics while in the graduate program. The award is sponsored by the Wright Memorial Chapter of the Air Force Association and is named in honor of Lieutenant Edwin E. Aldrin, Sr.; a member of the institute’s first graduating class in 1920, who upon graduation, became AFIT’s first vice commandant.
  • Master Sgt. Michael Ames from the Systems Engineering and Management Department received the Secretary James G. Roche Award for demonstrating exceptional academic achievement through a combination of grade point average and outstanding research, as well as high qualities of character, initiative, leadership and service. The award is named after Air Force Secretary James G. Roche whose leadership in 2002 led to the first class of non-commissioned officers into the Graduate School of Engineering and Management.

The following students met all degree requirements and were approved for the designated degree (in bold):
Doctor of Philosophy

Aeronautical Engineering
Capt. Carol E. Bryant

Nuclear Engineering
Maj. Brian G. Frandsen
Maj. Christopher S. Charles

Systems Engineering
Lt. Col. Larry C. Llewellyn

Master of Engineering in Applied Systems Engineering
Jeffery S. Green
Capt. Coraviece M. Terry

Master of Science in Acquisition and Program Management
Capt. Anna M. Davis
Capt. Derek N. Dennis
Capt. Robert F. Gray
1st Lt. Brandon J. Koury
Capt. Mitchell R. Thomas (Space Force)
Capt. Brady C. Weaver*

Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering
Capt. Arvi Jonathan A. Balbin
Capt. Jinhee F. Byun
Nathan A. Clark
Capt. Mauro Noel V. De Leon (Space Force)
Capt. James H. Founds (Space Force)
2nd Lt. Jacob R. Johanik (Space Force)
Capt. Ross H. Kellet
Capt. Caleb D. Krolak
Capt. Jeffrey M. Layng
Capt. Bryan T. Leicht (Marine Corps)
Capt. Dana C. Madsen
Mathew M. Major
Capt. Michael A. Santiago
2nd Lt. Trevor A. Toros
Capt. Bryce E. Vanvelson

Master of Science in Applied Mathematics
Capt. Alexander N. Contarino
1st Lt. Grace Y. Smith

Master of Science in Applied Physics
Capt. Tyler D. Dolezal*
1st Lt. Christopher Heckman
Capt. Travis J. Hodos
2nd Lt. Casey L. Kowalski
2nd Lt. Ian R. Moffett
Capt. Laura G. Pineda
1st Lt. Ryan E. Pinson
Capt. Benjamin L. Rinaldi

Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering
Capt. Randolph T. Abaya
Capt. Charles M. Carr*
Capt. Adam S. Cottrell (Space Force)
Capt. Lester L. Tuck (Space Force)
Capt. Jae Yu
Stephen T. Zittrouer

Master of Science in Atmospheric Science
Capt. Bryan G. Castro
Capt. Zachary A. Cleveland*

Master of Science in Computer Engineering
1st Lt. Samuel D. Chadwick (Space Force)
Capt. Rain F. Dartt (Space Force)
2nd Lt. Noah B. Diamond
2nd Lt. Hunter G. Doster
2nd Lt. Brett M. Martin
Capt. Joel M. Miller
2nd Lt. Jonathan I. Nicholson
Capt. Niko A. Petrocelli*
1st Lt. Noah W. Scott

Master of Science in Computer Science
2nd Lt. Bailey V. Compton
1st Lt. James C. Lynch
2nd Lt. Andrew T. Park
Capt. Joshua A. Rinaldi
2nd Lt. Garth J. Terlizzi
2nd Lt. Trenton M. Woods
2nd Lt. Xiaoyang Wu

Master of Science in Cost Analysis
1st Lt. Nickolas Biancalana
1st Lt. Sammantha J. Jones
Capt. Daniel A. Long
Capt. Kaiana M. Miller*
Capt. Susan L. Moore
Capt. Aaron Noel D. Santos
2nd Lt. Michael J. Smith
1st Lt. Robert T. Walker

Master of Science in Cyber Operations
Capt. Matthew A. Bergstedt
2nd Lt. Tristan V. Creek*
Capt. Kyle S. Harris
Capt. Timothy C. Kokotajlo
Capt. Banks P. Lin (Space Force)
Capt. Ryan P. Montgomery
2nd Lt. Calvin M. Muramoto
Capt. Robert J. Wilson
2nd Lt. Allison M. Wong

Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
Capt. Seung Hwan An
Brandon M. Blakely
Jonnathan D. Bonifaz Montesdeoca
Capt. Tyler A. Brown*
1st Lt. Aaron J. Deluca
Capt. Andrew J. Dittrich (Space Force)
Capt. Nathan J. Gaul
Michael J. Hartnett
2nd Lt. Hunter S. Hayden
2nd Lt. Ryan M. Jans
Jenario Y. Johnson
Capt. Wayne C. Kreimeyer
Capt. Noah Kwock
Alexander J. McNeil
Capt. Peter F. Norris (Space Force)
Capt. Nathaniel R. Peck (Space Force)
Capt. Scott C. Podlogar (Space Force)
1st Lt. Guillermo A. Salcedo*
Capt. Caleb B. Schmidt (Space Force) (dual degree)
1st Lt. Nathan L. Severance
Capt. Devan P. Shivers (Space Force)
1st Lt. Jacob E. Song (Space Force)
Capt. David K. Stamper
1st Lt. Niles A. Tate
2nd Lt. Osiris J. Terry
Capt. Randal C. Thomas
Capt. William J. Tremblay
Capt. Samuel O. Vonniederhausern*
Tristan T. Williams

Master of Science in Engineering Management
Capt. Dylan D. Bechen
Capt. Tyler J. Brunjes
Capt. Eric R. Curia
2nd Lt. Ashton E. Doyal
William K. Duncan
Capt. Jacob A. Franke
Capt. Dylan A. Gagnon
Capt. Blake A. Gawlik
2nd Lt. Kevin D. Hansen
Maj. Jereme R. Henrard
Capt. Gregory J. Howland
Capt. Robert B. Kitson
Capt. Jedidiah R. Langlois*
Capt. Joseph-Thomas H. Lehotsky
Capt. Patrick J. Lopez
2nd Lt. Andrew G. Lowe
Capt. Andre J. May
Capt. Kelly W. Minor
Capt. Zachary T. Moer*
2nd Lt. Kristen R. Roberts
Capt. David N. Robinson
Capt. Erica F. Sadowski
Capt. Kiara L. Vance

Master of Science in Environmental Engineering and Science
Master Sgt. Michael H. Ames (dual degree)
Capt. Jason R. McDonald (Marine Corps)
Maj. Tyson S. Metlen (Marine Corps)
2nd Lt. Owen D. Sedej*

Master of Science in Industrial Hygiene
Master Sgt. Michael H. Ames (dual degree)
Capt. George D. Cooksey
Tech. Sgt. Stephanie N. Fuller
Tech. Sgt. Brian S. Harvey

Master of Science in Logistics
Maj. Leroi G. Edwards
Maj. Meyliana H. Tongko

Master of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Tech. Sgt. John N. Campos Y Campos
Capt. Christian J. Graves
Capt. Derrick J. Lohr
Master Sgt. Beau D. Messenger
Capt. Daniel E. Parkhill*
Master Sgt. Alexander J. Price
Capt. Christopher T. Price
Capt. Brijae A. Scarbrough
2nd Lt. Jack M. Spriggs
Capt. Vanessa I. Unseth

Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering
Capt. Benjamin Boettcher (Army)
Zachary D. Bretz
2nd Lt. Preston J. Dicks
Capt. Matthew C. Heiskell
Micah C. Jeroutek
Wade Kloppenburg
Thomas J. Schlitt
Maj. Zachary R. Scott (Army)
Capt. Alexander L. Spring
Lt. Col. Theodore W. Stephens (Army)

Master of Science in Operations Research
Capt. Nicholas C. Anderson
1st Lt. Keith Batista
Capt. Jacob P. Batt
1st Lt. Michael A. Cevallos
Maj. Anthony J. Correale (Space Force)
1st Lt. Glen R. Drumm
1st Lt. Jonathan M. Escamilla
Capt. Daniel F. Feze
2nd Lt. Elizabeth A. Frakes
1st Lt. Virbon B. Frial
1st Lt. Andrew G. Gelbard
1st Lt. Norma Ghanem
Capt. Aaron K. Glenn
Capt. Kyle W. Goggins
Capt. Kassie M. Gurnell
1st Lt. Alex M. Hoffendahl
Douglas W. Hubbard
Capt. Brian T. Johnson (Army)
2nd Lt. Izaiah G. Laduke
2nd Lt. Daniel G. Laird
2nd Lt. Irene D. Liew*
2nd Lt. Austin P. Logan*
1st Lt. Bradford L. Lott
2nd Lt. Michael M. Maestas
2nd Lt. Benjamin J. McCloskey
2nd Lt. Noah M. Miller
2nd Lt. Andrew E. Mogan*
2nd Lt. David A. Mottice*
2nd Lt. John C. O'Donnell
Maj. Andrew E. Pekarek (Army)
1st Lt. Rebecca L. Reynolds
Capt. Channel A. Rodriguez
Capt. Jonathan M. Turner
2nd Lt. Charles M. Unkrich

Master of Science in Scientific and Technical Intelligence
1st Lt. Nathan Carbaugh
Jacob M. Dupuis
1st Lt. Joshua F. Mossing

Master of Science in Space Systems
Capt. Michael J. Bittle (Space Force)
Capt. Mark A. Kurtz* (Space Force)
2nd Lt. Jay Laone
Capt. Luella N. Lopez (Space Force)
2nd Lt. Alexander C. Urban
2nd Lt. Kyle A. Williams (Space Force)
Maj. Benjamin R. Williams (Space Force)

Master of Science in Systems Engineering
Capt. Christopher M. Arnold
Capt. Patrick E. Assef*
Capt. Cheyenne N. Bierschbach (Space Force)
Capt. Charles E. Caines
Maj. Daniel A. Cuellar
Master Sgt. James M. Earley
Capt. Brian N. Frew (Space Force)
1st Lt. Igor L. Gertsman
Capt. Jacob D. Hatzinger*
2nd Lt. Dylan T. Hazlett
Maj. Hongseok Kim (Republic of Korea)
Capt. Dean A. LaMonica
Capt. Alexander J. Miesle
Brian R. Novitsky
Capt. Taylor A. Patterson
Capt. Raymond Pereira
Capt. Christopher R. Reed
Capt. Caleb B. Schmidt (Space Force) (dual degree)
Capt. Li Yu

*Distinguished Graduate


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