Serena Williams oath

En route to earning the rank of second lieutenant, Serena Williams (CHS 2021) had to balance her military duties with being a full-time college student, spending time with her family and friends, and working.

With that—while most of her college classmates were still in bed—physical training started at 0600, but she didn't mind.

“PT every day was actually really fun. The morale was always really high. It’s all the friends and relationships that you build here.”

Williams was one of 16 ROTC officers who were commissioned in a ceremony held in Ostrander Auditorium on the campus of Minnesota, State University, Mankato on Friday.

“In a time in our nation when we may doubt ourselves, we just need to look at ceremonies like today, where we need not doubt ourselves, and look at one another who are sitting in this room and truly know who we are as a nation and what makes us great,” said Lieutenant General Douglas Stitt, guest speaker at the ceremony.”

Inspired by her grandfather (Thomas Williams, 1957-2020), a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, Williams decided to go into the military when she was 17. Getting her feet wet, she started with drills in a “Recruit Sustainment Program” in Mankato.

“I made friends through that and watched them ship off to basic training,” she said.

Then, two months after graduating from CHS in 2021, she went to basic herself with a rigorous 10-week stint in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. After boot camp, her first assignment was with a unit in Bloomington, Minnesota. There, she worked with human resources. Later, she joined ROTC and received a scholarship her junior year and transferred to Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Her position in the Maverick Battalion was cadet sergeant major. In that role, she advised the cadet battalion commander, coordinated volunteer events, and set a tone for the battalion and its 90 cadets.

“I built a lot of good relationships,” she said. “I call some of the freshmen, sophomores and juniors my ‘mentees.’ when really they are my friends who are younger than I am. They look up to the seniors and their military experience. Really, I am not that much more advanced, but we make an environment that makes them want to stay with the Army."

Craig Fontain, senior military science director at MSU,M and a member of Williams’ “cadre,” noted her drive and ability to work with people.

“The mental maturity that she has to be able to deal with situations and solve them is outstanding. You give her a task, it will get done with minimal guidance.”

Williams shadowed a field artillery unit and then attended ROTC camp at Minnesota’s Camp Ripley. Last summer, she spent a few weeks at ROTC training in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Commissioning has four ceremonial steps.

First, the cadet takes the oath of office. For Williams, Tyler Piotter (CHS 2016), led her oath (above). Piotter is currently a lieutenant in the Army Reserves and plans to achieve the rank of captain next year.

“Two Cleveland grads…to be able to commission her is an honor,” Piotter said.

Next, friends or family members of the new second lieutenant pin the gold bars of the rank on the uniform shoulders. Tonya (her mother) and Joshua Schummer pinned her rank.

Then the new officer receives his or her first salute. Typical first salutes come from current non-commissioned officers (e.g., sergeants or corporals) who are friends of the new officer or from one of their commissioning source instructors. Traditionally, the newly commissioned officer presents a silver dollar to the person who rendered him or her the first salute. The presentation of the coin symbolically acknowledges the receipt of respect that the newly commissioned officer has for the NCO corps.

Katlyn Raines. Williams’ friend from basic training, gave Williams her first salute.

Finally, cadets receive their written commission, a certificate of appointment in which the Secretary of the Army assigns the new lieutenant the authority to accomplish the duties and responsibilities of her or his appointed rank.

Williams will be branching military intelligence (MI) in the National Guard and will head to Fort Huachuca in Arizona next February and then decide from there a career path to take.

Later on Friday, Williams went through MSU,M graduation ceremonies, where she received bachelor degrees in both Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice with a minor in Military Science.

Tonya and Joshua Schummer pin the rank of second lieutenant on Serena Williams.

First salute

Serena Williams with her certificate of appointment. In back is guest speaker Lieutenant General Douglas Stitt.

With fresh gold bars on her cap, Serena Williams takes a selfie outside of Centennial Student Union after the ceremony.

Serena Williams with her sister Evalyn Schummer (grade 5) and brother Jordan Schummer (grade 2).

Serena Williams and Tyler Piotter. Piotter is working his way toward the rank of captain in the Army Reserves. He currently resides in the metro and works with Jeremy Weller as a merchandiser for Dairy Products Inc.