Regent’s First NROTC NPP Graduating Class Earns Navy Commission

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA. – The first group of students who enrolled in Regent University’s Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NROTC) Preparatory Program (NPP) in 2019 will receive their commission as ensigns in the U.S. Navy on May 2 and graduate from Regent University two days later, on May 4. One NPP student who started with the group graduated early in 2023. 

NPP is usually a five-year program that starts with a preparatory year and leads to a four-year  NROTC scholarship.  

Of the five NROTC students graduating from Regent University in May, four were enrolled in the NPP, and one started in NROTC in 2020. Over the past several years, these students have spent  considerable time improving academically, physically, and spiritually and will soon depart the  university for the far corners of the world. 

John Cordero, Director of Military Affairs at Regent University, spent 30 years in the Marine  Corps before joining the university. It is safe to say that he brings a wealth of knowledge and  experience to his role in supporting military students at Regent University.

His leadership and  dedication to serving the NROTC and military community are evident in his work every day. In  an interview with Cordero, he explained that the current program began with 13 students and was  reduced to the graduating five over the years. 

“The program is very vigorous, both academically and physically. There are even summer  commitments,” said Cordero. The program is designed to increase opportunity for  underprivileged, low-income students, providing the chance to be awarded a scholarship. For many, this chance made a college education possible. However, obtaining the scholarship is not  an easy feat. 

“There are many factors to qualification, and four required classes, including calculus and  physics,” said Cordero. He emphasized the importance of discipline and dedication in the  program, saying that those who work hard will be rewarded. 

There are 25 schools across the United States that offer NPP, which expands NROTC commissioning opportunities to produce a more capable and representative Naval Officer Corps  once students enter the U.S. Navy. Through the NROTC Preparatory Scholarship Reservations  (NPSR), deserving high school students are provided resources and options to afford a college  education and pursue a commission. 

Midshipman 1st Class Kassidy Mayfield, who could not afford college without a scholarship,  wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. While in high school, she submitted her application  and scholarship request with assistance from her Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) leadership, and she was chosen by Regent University.

During her summer training, she  had the opportunity to go aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and the USS George H.W. Bush  (CVN 77). Both cruises had a major impact on why she chose Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer. 

Mayfield, originally from Easley, South Carolina, was a top performer in her unit and earned the  Chief of Naval Operations Distinguished Midshipman award, which was presented to her during  an awards ceremony in early April. She discussed what earning the award meant to her.

“Honestly, I was appreciative that the work I put in so far with the unit was being recognized,”  Mayfield said, who will later report to USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109), based in Mayport,  Florida. 

“I will forever be grateful for the opportunities and knowledge I have gained through the  program.” 

Many of the students have benefitted from the NPP and seek to help spread awareness for the  opportunities the Navy can provide. 

Midshipman 1st Class Solomon Foster-Smith, who graduated in 2019 from Spring High School  in Spring, Texas, has enjoyed his experience at Regent University and wants to raise awareness  of the opportunities students like him are afforded to excel in education and faith. 

“I want people to do whatever God wants them to do,” Foster-Smith said, who said that most  students from Spring Texas were unaware of the opportunities available, adding that potential  students did not have to pay for college when accepted into NPP. 

“By attending NPP, you can change the trajectory of your life, only if you are willing to take an  opportunity that you were not planning on.” 

Foster-Smith has continued to pass along the lessons he has learned since arriving at Regent  University. He has returned to Spring High School to mentor students who will one day follow in  his footsteps. 

“I was seen as a trailblazer,” Foster-Smith said of students who have followed him into the  program. “I continue to care for them and look forward to seeing how they grow as naval  officers.” 

Foster-Smith added that the original students who first enrolled in the first NPP class appreciate  staying on the course because of the rewards their dedication has brought. In early April, Foster-Smith was awarded the title of number one Surface Warfare Officer in the Hampton Roads NROTC unit, a recognition he will put to the test when he commissions in the U.S. Navy  and heads to his first assignment on board USS Robert Smalls (CG 62), based in Yokosuka,  Japan. 

As a token of his coveted new title, Foster-Smith was awarded a clock inside a compartment box to always remember the pivotal time he spent at Regent. 

“I will find myself looking at [the clock] 20 years from now. It is interesting to think that I am  the number one SWO at the unit, and it is nice to think that the work I am putting in is showing,”  Foster-Smith said. 

All but one student had some military connection with a parent or close relative who served in  the armed forces with a strong desire to serve, inspired by those who wore the cloth of the nation.  With their naval commission soon on the horizon, some have plans for who they will render their  first salute. 

Midshipman 1st Class Francisco Morales, originally from Virginia Beach, enjoyed sharing the  beauty of the area with his fellow students while attending the university for the past five years.

While he is a local student, Morales, who majored in computer engineering, was not aware of  Regent University prior to starting at NPP. 

“I was scheduled to get an interview for the Naval Academy, and in my senior year, I injured  myself, ripped the ligament on my leg, and canceled my whole application process,” Morales  recalled. 

Fortunately for his JROTC leadership, he was informed of a new program starting at Regent  University. 

“I came here blindly and did not know how the culture was. Now, I don’t even remember life  before Regent; I have been here for so long and grew into this atmosphere; I grew as a person  and better person than when I came here.” 

Morales is one of the students who will render his first salute to his father, who served as an  aviation electrician’s mate in the U.S. Navy in the 1990s and 2000s. 

The students have different reasons for selecting Regent, but all share an affinity for the Virginia  Beach-based university. Some who came to Regent University had an abundance of other options  such as Midshipman 1st Class Michael Harrill, who enrolled in NROTC directly out of high  school on a four-year scholarship. After pursuing different service academies and architecture programs, Regent University was a last-minute decision for Harrill that was far from his original  plans. 

Harrill, originally from Fort Worth, Texas, was “drawn to Regent because of God,” feeling a tug  from the Lord, decided to obey, and found himself joining his brother, who had enrolled at  Regent two years prior. 

After transferring his NROTC scholarship to Regent University, Harrill did not have a specific  idea of what his future in the Navy would look like, but after various summer training and  spending 15 days underway aboard USS Delaware (SSN-791) found submarine life to be an  option. Though Harrill was interested in all the opportunities that the Navy has to offer, he will  graduate in May and pursue a career in the Navy nuclear field. 

Midshipman 1st Class Joshua Ellerson, originally from St. Mary’s, Georgia, found out about the  university by attending a college fair. Ellerson was enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officer  Training Corps in high school and met with a Regent University representative at a college fair.  Ten days after the deadline to apply for the NPP scholarship, he submitted the required  paperwork and later found out he was accepted. 

Ellerson had applied to other colleges but believed God’s plan ultimately brought him to Regent. 

“I think it was God’s plan to come here. I had applied for scholarships for many other places in  and out of state,” Ellerson said, who was initially interested in going into the Air Force ROTC at  Georgia Southern. 

Ellerson is majoring in computer engineering, and upon graduation, Ellerson will report to the  USS Shiloh (CG 67), which is based in Hawaii. 

When asked about the five graduates, Cordero expressed his pride and highlighted their success.  “There was no doubt in my mind that those [students] were going to make it through the  program.” He commended their perseverance and commitment to their studies.

As the NROTC program continues to thrive in 2024, Regent University expects to accept 15 new  NPP candidates who will begin their careers in the 2024-2025 school year. 

In closing, Regent University extends heartfelt congratulations to MIDN Kassidy Mayfield,  MIDN Solomon Foster-Smith, MIDN Francisco Morales, MIDN Michael Harrill, and MIDN Joshua Ellerson on their upcoming commissioning in the U.S. Navy and their graduation from  Regent University.

May their futures be filled with continued success, fulfillment, and service to  their country. As they embark on this new chapter, may they always carry with them the spirit of  excellence, integrity, and honor instilled within them during their time at Regent University. 

Congratulations, and best of luck on your journey ahead!