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Furman cadets earn national Distinguished Military Graduate honors

From left: Cadets Andrew Klein ’24, Cole Sweeney ’24 and Denison Jones ’24

Last updated October 24, 2023

By Jerry Salley ’90

Three members of Furman’s Class of 2024 have earned a distinction reserved for the top 20% of all U.S. Army ROTC cadets in the country.

Cadets Denison Jones, Andrew Klein and Cole Sweeney have been named Distinguished Military Graduates (DMG) by the U.S. Army Cadet Command. Their names appeared in the top fifth of the command’s Order of Merit List, a ranking of more than 6,000 Army ROTC cadets commissioning in the United States, said Lt. Col. Sarah Whitten, professor of military science at Furman. In addition to earning high grades in their military science courses at Furman, the cadets also completed Advanced Camp during Cadet Summer Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, over the summer along with other ROTC students across the country.

It takes more than military science acumen to get to the top of the Order of Merit List, and Paladin Battalion cadets benefit from Furman’s emphasis on academic excellence and student involvement, said Whitten.

“The designation highlights that ROTC students must be well-rounded,” she said. “The list takes into consideration not just their ROTC performance, but more importantly, their GPA and cultural experience, athletic activities and roles and responsibilities in on-campus clubs and organizations,” she said.

For Jones, a business administration major with a minor in Latin American studies, the DMG title reflects his time-management skills in balancing academics, ROTC and the Paladins men’s soccer team.

“The hardest part of my life is that I will play a home game under the lights of Eugene Stone Stadium,” he said, “and seven hours later, I’m under those same lights that brighten the space for ROTC physical training.”

After receiving his commission and graduating in the spring, Jones will enter the Army National Guard to fly CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

“DMG is a title that recognizes how well the Paladin Battalion prepares its cadets to be successful and effective in all things we put our minds to,” he said. “Going into Cadet Summer Training, I was blessed to have been overly prepared by my home program.”

Like Jones, Sweeney, a biology major on the conservation biology track, also plans to enter the National Guard after being commissioned. And he, too, appreciates the training he received at Furman.

“We over-drill and over-exercise the things we’re going to do at camp,” said Sweeney, who plans to attend flight school to become a medevac pilot. “Probably about 25 percent of the people I met there had done land navigation twice in their entire college career, whereas we’re doing it multiple times a semester to prepare us.”

A member of Furman’s club lacrosse team, Sweeney chose Furman over other schools where he could have played on a varsity team, he said. The military science program helped him make his decision.

“ROTC is why I came to Furman,” said the senior, who appreciated the one-on-one opportunities the school’s relatively small battalion size and low student-faculty ratio provide.

“I’m very thankful for everyone who has been a part of my ROTC career,” said Klein, a communication studies major and rugby club player. “I have a great team surrounding me. The cadre has developed me in ways I could never have thought I’d be able to develop.”

Klein hopes to serve in the Army’s infantry branch after graduation. Cadets nationwide compete for positions in the service’s various branches, and a cadet’s place on the Order of Merit List is one major factor in their assignment.

“I’d like to be an infantry officer for my whole career,” Klein said.

Wherever Furman’s Distinguished Military Graduates go, it will be better for their service, said Whitten.

“It has been amazing to watch them grow and develop as leaders these past several years,” she said. “I know they and their peers will go on to do amazing things.”

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