First Graduation of AW2 Education Initiative Students

By Jim Merrill, AW2 Advocate

COL Jim Rice, Former KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, Wes Fine, and Jim Merrill at the AW2 Education Initiative KU graduation.

(L-R) COL Jim Rice, Former KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, Wes Fine, and Jim Merrill at the AW2 Education Initiative KU graduation.

The weekend of May 15-16, 2010, saw many college graduations and ceremonies across the country. Along with COL Rice, I had the pleasure of attending a special one; the master’s hooding ceremony at the University of Kansas (KU) in Lawrence, for the first six graduates of the AW2 Education Initiative.

These new graduates, all wounded warriors, were the first selected to take part in an innovative cooperative program between the Department of the Army (DA) and KU. Soldiers that possessed bachelor’s degrees could attend KU as either COAD (Continuation on Active Duty) Soldiers or as paid DA civilians, with all fees paid, to obtain their master’s degree, and in return become an instructor at the Command and General Staff College (C&GS) at Fort Leavenworth, or in another capability with the Army.

Congratulations to the Soldiers who completed the AW2 Education Initiative Program this year. Their names, degrees, and next assignments are: 

  • CPT Gates Brown, Military History, Department of Military History, C&GS College, Fort Leavenworth 
  • CPT (Ret) Wes Fine, International Studies, Counterinsurgency Center, Fort Leavenworth 
  • CPT (Ret) Dave Holden, Military History, Department of Military History, C&GS College, Fort Leavenworth 
  • CPT Tim Hornik, Social Work, AMEDD (U.S. Army Medical Department) 
  • CW3 Ari Jean-Baptiste, Political Science, Department of Joint, Interagency and Multinational Operations, Fort Leavenworth 
  • SGT (Ret) Rob Laurent, Supply Chain Management & Logistics, Fort Lee, VA
AW2 Education Initiative KU Graduates are (L-R) Rob Laurent, CW3 Ari Jean-Baptiste, Wes Fine, CPT Tim Hornik, and CPT Gates Brown.

AW2 Education Initiative KU Graduates are (L-R) Rob Laurent, CW3 Ari Jean-Baptiste, Wes Fine, CPT Tim Hornik, and CPT Gates Brown.

COL Rice and I attended both the hooding ceremony and a reception that followed. In a short speech by CPT Gates Brown, on behalf of the other students, CPT Brown thanked all those involved for giving these Soldiers this opportunity. The words struck me as ironic; they were true American heroes standing in front of us, thanking us. In my opinion, it should have definitely been the other way around. My life has changed by being exposed to Soldiers such as these. Speaking as a proud and patriotic American, thank you, gentlemen, for what you have done, your pain, suffering, and sacrifices for this country, and the continuing service you are providing.

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