Deployed UAA grads hold ceremony of own

  • Published
  • By Maj. Matthew Komatsu
  • Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa
On Thursday, Aug. 21, this year's graduating class from the University of Alaska Anchorage's MEDEX Northwest Physician Assistant Training Program walked across the stage in Anchorage and received their diplomas. Two students, however, were notably absent: Kris Abel and Nate Greene were not present that day because they were on the other side of the world, deployed to Djibouti, Africa.

To recognize the importance of the event, deployed squadron members -- all Alaska Air National Guardsmen with the 212th Rescue Squadron -- prepared a surprise, informal graduation ceremony of their own. Parachute riggers sewed caps and gowns fashioned from bed sheets purchased at the base exchange, "keynote speakers" prepared speeches, and one squadron member was even able to download "Pomp and Circumstance" to his music player.

At 4 p.m., all unit members reported to the unit and assembled in formation. The graduates, Master Sgt. Abel and Staff Sgt. Greene, arrived to find caps and gowns ready to don and a stage set for their graduation. Maj. Matthew Komatsu, the deployed unit commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Paul Barendregt, the unit senior enlisted leader, acted as keynote speaker and emcee, respectively.

In his short address to the team and the two graduates, Komatsu noted the importance of Abel's and Greene's accomplishment towards Alaska's medical service to its remote citizens.

"Kris and Nate are model citizen-airmen," Komatsu said during his address, noting their traditional Guard status. "They sacrificed two years in support of a degree that will benefit the state of Alaska, and somehow managed to do it in balance with their military commitments. We expect, and know, great things will come from these two."