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UVa-Wise celebrates its first ROTC commissioning


Wise resident Michael Dustin Bailey received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing on Saturday, May 19 at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, but he left Commencement as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.

It was a poignant and historic moment that those attending will not soon forget. Bailey is the first to be commissioned as part of the College’s ROTC program.

Those attending listened quietly and gave their full attention to Bailey, his family and the officers and enlisted soldiers as they took the stage for the official ceremony. He took his oath and stood strong as Mike and Karen Bailey placed rank bars on their son’s shoulders.

In time-honored tradition, newly promoted Second Lieutenant Bailey, 23, was ready for his first salute. Sgt. Thomas Scholl, a non-commissioned officer who instilled the proper military way of doing things into the ROTC cadets, walked swiftly toward Bailey and gave him a crisp salute. In exchange, Lt. Bailey presented Sgt. Scholl with a silver dollar.

“I fell in love with the military when I was in the Jr. ROTC program in high school,” he said in an interview two days before he became an Army officer. “I enjoyed the four years that I was in the Army ROTC.”

It is a bit of family tradition to be a nurse and to serve in the military. His mother, Karen Bailey, is a nurse. His grandfather and great-grandfather served in the Army as enlisted soldiers. When it came time to choosing a major, nursing seemed a good fit.

“I’d watched my mom working as a nurse, and I shadowed a nurse anesthetist as a student,” he said. “I fell in love with nursing, but I knew I had to have a bachelor’s degree to be a nurse anesthetist.”

After a stint as a bridge builder in the National Guard, he toyed with the thought of moving up in the ranks to become an officer. He decided to get a college education and pursue a commission through the ROTC program. He had no idea that he would be the first to be commissioned at UVa-Wise, a college with its own special connection to the military. More than 70 percent of the College’s first students were veterans of the Korean Conflict. Many students and graduates have had stellar military careers in peacetime and in conflict, especially in recent wars in the Middle East.

“I’m kind of proud to be the first to be commissioned here,” he said. “I am honored. I would recommend the ROTC program for others. I’d like to see it grow and get bigger. I think we have 12 prospects here for the fall. It’s a great program. You get an education and will know you have a job when you graduate.”

Lt. Martin Asirifi has been with the ROTC program on campus for nearly two years. He had nothing but praise for Lt. Bailey and the program.

“He should do very well as a nurse and as an officer,” he said. “Many people, even ones on campus, are not fully aware of the ROTC program. After seeing the commissioning, there will be no doubts.”