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

  • Published
  • By Caroline Clauson
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

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, the institute’s first commandant.
  • Capt. Zachary Cleveland from the Engineering Physics Department received the Louis F. Polk Award. The winner of this award exhibits the highest standards of academic and professional accomplishment, and through his or her research, makes 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 named in honor of Lieutenant Edwin E. Aldrin Sr., a member of the institute’s first graduating class in 1920. Upon graduation, he 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 NCOs into the Graduate School of Engineering and Management.

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

Doctorate 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