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CJCS participates in ChalleNGe graduation
By Sgt. Wayne Woolley, NJDMAVA/PA

The top American military commander, Adm. Mike Mullen, was the guest of honor for the graduation of Class 30 of the New Jersey Youth ChalleNGe Academy at the War Memorial on Aug 29.

Mullen, the 37th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commended the cadets for enrolling in the rigorous 22-week National Guard program at Fort Dix that uses discipline and community service to help at-risk youth turn their lives around and graduate from high school. More than 2,500 teen-agers have completed New Jersey’s program since it launched in 1992.

Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, left, and Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, second from right, Joint Chiefs of Staff, shake the hands of graduating ChalleNGe graduates on Aug. 29. Photo by Spc. Robert Neill, JFHQ-NJ/PA.

“To want to make a change is not easy at any age,” Mullen said. “To make that decision at your age is to be commended … you are going to be our leaders in the future.”

The chairman also had kind words for the National Guard. “We would not be the military we are, we would not be the nation we are and, indeed, New Jersey would not be the state that it is without the National Guard,” Mullen said.

Although the objective of ChalleNGe is to produce productive, high school graduates, many of the cadets go on to enlist in the military. In fact, 42 Soldiers from the New Jersey Army National Guard’s 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which returned from Iraq in June, are ChalleNGe graduates.

Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, the Adjutant General, swore five of the ChalleNGe graduates into the National Guard at the ceremony.

Clive Hinds, the distinguished graduate of Class 30, said he’s considering joining the military as well, but first wants to attend college.

The 18-year-old from Hackensack, said the discipline instilled in the ChalleNGe program helped him channel the anger that once got him in trouble.

“This program really helped calm me down and focus,” Hinds said. “I can’t say enough good things about ChalleNGe and the cadre.”

His mother, Andrie Hinds, agreed. “My son is so patient now, I almost didn’t recognize him,” she said. “He always was a good boy. He just needed a push in the right direction. I’m so grateful he got it.”

For the ChalleNGe cadre, graduation day was the payoff for weeks of long days.

Staff Sgt. Gerard Tanner, one of the instructors, beamed as the new graduates crowded around him to shake his hand.

“These kids make me proud,” said Tanner, who is also an Army National Guard staff sergeant. “You’ve got some bright kids here. I guarantee you a lot of them are going to go on to do great things.

Colonel Thomas takes command of Battle Lab

From the first woman to command a New Jersey Army National Guard battalion in combat to the first female in the state to graduate from the Army War College, Col. Loretta Thomas, right, seen here receiving the guidon from Brig. Gen. John Nunn. Thomas has garnered a string of firsts in her 25-year military career. She extended the streak on July 11 when she became the first woman to lead the National Guard Bureau Joint Training and Training Development Center at Fort Dix. Thomas, who led the former 250th Signal Battalion in Iraq in 2005, wants to build on the Battle Lab’s national reputation as a center of excellence. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Donnelly, 444MPAD.


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Volume 34 Number 5 Staff / Information
(c) 2009 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs