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Meet the first Marine Officer commissioned from Columbia University since the Vietnam War


NEW YORK - Staff Sergeant Patrick Poorbaugh received his commission to become the first Marine officer commissioned from Columbia University since the Vietnam War began during a ceremony in the Low Memorial Library Rotunda, Columbia University, New York City, May 21.

The Ivy League school has not accepted Naval ROTC graduates since that time due to the unpopular stance of the Vietnam War.

"I want Marines to know that I will be competent and I will get the job done and I will be looking out for them," Poorbaugh said after his commission. "This is exactly what we expect from our SNCOs and that's what they can expect from me as a second lieutenant."

Poorbaugh's commission was attended by dozens of well wishers including service members from other branches and other leadership, including the Columbia University School of General Studies Dean, Peter Awn, and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Juan Garcia.

"This is a big deal!" said Brig. Gen. Terry Williams, Eastern Recruiting Region and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island commanding general. "This is the first Marine Corps commissioning since 1970. Your choice to continue to serve this great nation, for the commitment we know it will take from you to carry out the duties of an officer of Marines, your willingness to confront dangers on the nation's behalf in the months and years to come are all noteworthy."

Staff Sgt. Patrick Poorbaugh stands at attention while his citation is read during his commissioning ceremony at the Low Memorial Library Rotunda, Columbia University, New York City, May, 21. Poorbaugh became the first Marine in 40 years to commission from the school. Poorbaugh is a Mackinaw, Ill., native, and graduated with a degree in Political Science from the College of General Studies

Poorbaugh was raised in Mackinaw, Illinois, and joined the Marine Corps after graduating Dee-Mack High school in 2005. He deployed to Iraq in 2006 and 2008. He planned to initially leave the Marine Corps after his first enlistment, but decided to stay and get more change, and more of challenge and to keep leading Marines.

"One trend among non-traditional students and especially vets is that we sell ourselves short," Poorbaugh said. "Most of us didn't perform well at the high school level and don't think they can achieve that higher level of education. But after you been in for a little while you realize that you can do anything. I can go to any school; I can learn anything; I can do any job. You just have to have a plan and put in the time and effort."

So he did by earning his chance to become an officer through the Marine Enlisted Commission Program and starting school at Columbia in 2012.

"Having access to the Ivy League schools (gives the Marine Corps) that diversity of thought and the Marine Corps needs diversity not because it makes us the best fighting force in the world, we get that through training," said Williams, the oath of office administrator for the ceremony. "But this keeps us tied to the nation, to the people. We are America's Marines."

According to Awn, having an active-duty Marine attend Columbia was a benefit to all parties involved.

"GS is an extraordinary college as it brings into the undergraduate program people like Patrick Poorbaugh, who not only represents the best of the Marine Corps but his impact on the other students at Columbia has been substantial," Awn said. "To see him commissioned today is an extraordinary honor both from Columbia and for the college from which he graduated. To get to know an enlisted man and now an officer is life changing for lots and lots of people on this campus."

"For us to have a Columbia alum of that caliber is really an honor."

Staff Sgt. Patrick Poorbaugh stands poised to take charge as America's newest Marine second lieutenant and Columbia University graduate during his commissioning ceremony in the Low Memorial Library Rotunda, Columbia University, New York May, 21. Poorbaugh became the first Marine in 40 years to commission from the school. Poorbaugh is a Mackinaw, Ill., native, and graduated with a degree in Political Science from the College of General Studies.

According to Williams, The Marine Corps recognizes that America's vast diversity in cultural backgrounds, skillsets and ideas has been and always will be critical to its success as a nation.

"We need smart leaders and he is a smart man and a great Marine," said Williams. "It's always great to have a Marine graduating from one of the Ivy League schools because he brings a different perspective and different way of thinking and that only makes us better."

Williams ended the ceremony by giving America's newest Marine second lieutenant words of encouragement.

"You will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Marines you lead," Williams concluded. "Have the confidence to lead them … for you are in charge of an elite warrior class."

Poorbaugh graduated with a degree in Political Science and will report to The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, to begin his commissioned career as a ground officer.

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