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Gonzaga University’s historic Bulldog Battalion celebrated its 70th birthday on March 23.

The annual celebration is known as GU’s ROTC Military Ball, and this year, it took place inside the Grand Pennington Ballroom and Hall of Doges of the the Historic Davenport Hotel.

The keynote speaker featured retired Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski, who was commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) who delivered a speech on his understanding of what defines a leader.

“I don’t believe leaders are born, I believe they are made,” Wiercinski said. “But I believe leaders are made from the day they are born.”

As the crowd observed in a quiet stillness, he went on to list the five traits of a leader. The traits were expanded to include integrity, courage and passion to selflessness, and all were described through the telling of his stories, formed by grave detail.

Wiercinski’s description of flying over where the twin towers had once stood, just months after their falling, set the tone.

“The pilot of the airliner requested permission to fly over where the towers had been – he was approved,” Wiercinski said. “As we flew a full 360 degrees around where the towers once stood, we all stared silently into that scorching pit. From then on, the rest of the flight to Kuwait was dead silent – not one person spoke a word.”

Wiercinski spent 34 years in the military serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as collecting a multitude of honors and awards. He was among the highest-ranking officials of the night and thus had no trouble commanding the audience’s attention.

Despite his high ranking, his rhetoric was still evoking of the cadet appeal. He described a feeling that every cadet was to know. 

“As you’re returning to base, drenched in that cold rain, you mustn’t take any shortcuts - always fulfill your duties,” he said, warning against making the mistake he once made as a cadet.

His soliloquies featured stories of inspiration, admiration and encouragement – all of which seemed to hit home for Cadet Haley Greer on the topic of her involvement with the Bulldog Battalion. 

Greer joined the ROTC with no military experience prior to college, and she recounted many of the aspects expressed in Wiercinski’s speech. 

“At first, it seemed like a good way to be challenged. There seemed to be opportunity to become physically and mentally strong – but what I’ve come to realize that it offers so much more,” Greer said. 

Greer’s experience in GU’s ROTC has taught her a lot about what it means to be a Bulldog Battalion cadet.

“They’ve become family,” Greer said. “Yeah, some people can get on your nerves, but that’s life, and actually, I’ve become better at dealing with adversity because of them. There are those that’ll try and grind you down but I never let them, and I’ve realized my ability to conquer those moments because of that.” 

Wiercinski’s speech was delivered only after two juniors made the annual “punch bowl.”

The punch was a bucket of liquid consisting of cadets’ “sweat and tears,” “dirt” from their kneepads and “gasoline” to symbolize the miles they will be trekking. The punch was served in wine glasses to each guest so everyone could enjoy the concoction as the annual toast was performed.

All of the festivities built up the anticipation to witness the cutting of the cake by the eldest and youngest cadets. Retired Col. Fred Aronow, distinguished military graduate of 1967, walked alongside freshman Cadet Lindsey Evers – both of whom are from the Bulldog Battalion. This tradition was followed by the night’s last event: the musical performance.

The Ellensburg Big Band ignited the night’s conclusion with upbeat jazz, featuring vocalists Rebecca Griswold and Tim Sorey. As the jazz music rolled on late into the night, people took to the floor to swing until the vibrancies of the room dwindled to a murmur and the Historic Davenport Hotel Ballroom returned to its state of slumbering homeostasis – that is, until the next celebration of the Bulldog Battalion’s anniversary.

Loren Carrillo is a staff writer.

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