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CREEDMOOR — Eric Keeler was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Friday during a virtual ceremony in Creedmoor City Hall.
Keeler is a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University Air Force ROTC Detachment 605.
The commissioning oath was administered by retired U.S. Air Force Col. Ed Mims, a graduate of the same ROTC program. Mims is also a Creedmoor commissioner and Keeler’s neighbor.
Detachment 605 Lt. Col. Gary Alexander opened the ceremony with remarks about Keeler.
“I’m not sure if Keeler wanted to turn his ROTC experience into five years from the start, or he liked it so much that he would extend the experience out another year,” Alexander said.
“Keeler has been working his way through his mechanical engineering degree, which he will put to use at his first base, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam adjacent to Honolulu, Hawaii,” Alexander said.
Keeler graduated from South Granville High School in 2015 and was a member of the Junior ROTC on campus. He earned a plethora of awards as a cadet in the Junior ROTC.
He enlisted in the Air Force in November 2016 and was administered the oath by Mims.
At N.C. A&T, Keeler was awarded the Commanders In College Scholarship which covers tuition for three years and requires a four-year active duty commitment and four-year inactive reserve commitment to the U. S. Air Force.
Annually, the detachment commander had the opportunity to select an outstanding cadet to receive this award. Then-detachment commander Paul Stanifer said Keeler was his choice because of his outstanding commitment to the program, academic performance and military bearing.
“Cadet Keeler caught my attention from the first day,” Stanifer said. “He embodied the characteristics America wants in its military leaders. I look forward to watching his continued growth and commission as a second lieutenant.”
Keeler, a member of the Air Force ROTC Detachment 605 Screaming Blackbirds, thanked his parents, his cadre and those in attendance.
“My parents have been there every single step along the way. Every obstacle that I have faced, they have told me what I needed to do to keep going,” Keeler said. “They have pushed me in the right direction.”
Keeler’s parents, Eddie and Tanaya Smith, grandmother Jane Smith, and siblings Parker and Jordan attended the ceremony, as well as Cameryn Sharkey, Jordan Byrd, Creedmoor Mayor Pro Tem Del Mims, City Manager Korena Weichel and Town Clerk Terry Hobgood.
CORRECTION (5-18-2020): An earlier version of this story misnamed Keeler's sibling, Parker, and Cameryn Sharkey. The story has been corrected.