One week this May brought a triple-whammy of festivities for UCCS father and son duo Greg Krems, business manager for the Office of Information Technology, and Noah Krems ’20.
The two celebrated Noah’s graduation from UCCS with a degree in criminal justice and minor in military science, his commissioning into the U.S. Army and marriage to fellow UCCS graduate Jessica Battin ’20 – all in the space of five days.
“Noah proposed to Jessica a year ago, and they decided on the date: May 20, 2020,” the senior Krems explained. “He knew we would have a ton of family in town because of his birthday and Commencement on the 15th, his commissioning ceremony on the 16th and the wedding on the 20th.”
With social distancing guidelines in place, the festivities looked a little different than originally planned.
The Krems and Battin families celebrated Noah and Jessica’s graduations – cum laude and magna cum laude, respectively – during UCCS’ first-ever virtual Commencement ceremony. Their wedding, which was held in Black Forest, took place in-person and was also livestreamed over Facebook to comply with social distancing guidelines.
But one celebration was even better than they could have imagined: Noah’s commissioning ceremony, in which he was sworn into service as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Noah was among numerous cadets in the UCCS Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scheduled to be commissioned virtually into the military on May 16.
In a stroke of inspiration, Noah realized that the helicopter hangar used by his reserve unit on Fort Carson could easily accommodate a socially-distanced ceremony – and that his family could be an essential part of the celebration.
In a traditional commissioning ceremony, cadets stand near an American flag. A commissioned officer reads the U.S. Armed Forces oath of office, which the cadet swears to uphold, and a family member or friend pins the gold second lieutenant bars to their shoulders. Finally, the new second lieutenant receives their first salute from an enlisted soldier.
To complete Noah’s commissioning, Greg asked a family friend, retired four-star General Stephen Lorenz, to read the commissioning oath. Noah’s mother Denise and now-wife Jessica pinned the lieutenant bars to his uniform. And Greg, himself a retired member of the Air Force who spent 23 years on active duty, offered his son the traditional first salute.
“It was super emotional,” Greg said. “First of all, for General Lorenz to read the commissioning oath to Noah – he is the utmost example of someone whose footsteps I’d want my son to follow. It was a changing of the guard.”
Greg continued, “When I went up to salute him, he turned to face me, and it was a gut-check. I’ve seen this kid’s eyes for 20 years – I’ve seen him fall off a bike, I know when he’s hurting, and I knew what he was feeling then. I salute him, he salutes me. He’s trembling, I’m trembling. And I just gave him a big hug. It was powerful.”
Now that he has graduated, Noah will attend medical training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, followed by two years of helicopter pilot training in Fort Rucker, Alabama. With a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and MCAT results under her belt, Jessica is now applying to medical school. She aims to become a commissioned medical officer in the Army.
Greg is simply proud of all that his son accomplished – and all that he will go on to accomplish over the years.
“I’m a proud dad,” he said. “This is how it’s supposed to be: you raise your kids, they do right by you, they choose to serve their country, and they’re so excited about the future.”