Cherokee NJROTC grad commissioned a Naval officer in local ceremony

Jeff Bobo • Oct 4, 2019 at 9:35 AM

ROGERSVILLE – Ashley Bowery, who began her Naval career as a NJROTC cadet at Cherokee High School eight years ago, returned home last week to officially begin the next phase of her military career.

On Sept. 28 Bowery was Commissioned an Ensign during a ceremony held at the Rogersville American Legion Post 21 with the help of her old teachers and current cadets who served as Honor Guard and Color Guard.

Cherokee Senior Naval Instructor Clyde Shumate performed the swearing in ceremony.

Bowery was then presented her officer's sword by 2019 Cherokee graduate and former NJROTC Commanding Cadet Heather Whitt, who is currently a Midshipman at the University of Memphis and being mentored by Bowery.

Cherokee naval Instructor Gary Stidham gave Bowery her first official salute as a U.S. Navy officer, and she paid him the traditional silver dollar for the first salute.

Bowery's parents, Chad Bowery and Jennifer Stroupe, pinned her shoulder boards, and her brother, Victor Bowery, presented Bowery her officer’s cover.

Upon graduating from Cherokee in 2015 Bowery received a full NAVY ROTC scholarship to the University of Memphis, where she gradated Magna Cum Laude this past May with a degree in Earth Sciences.

But, she was recovering from a foot injury at the time she was supposed to be commissioned a Naval officer.

The four month delay was a disappointment, but Bowery said it actually worked out better than she cold have imagined.

“I had originally planned to try to do it in Memphis because that's just how it works, but my family and my instructors said they wouldn't be able to come down,” Bowery told the Times News Wednesday. “I asked my chain of command, is it OK if I go back home and do it. They said yes. (Shumate and Stidham) were able to put that together in a few days, and it turned out to be an awesome time. Sometimes you may think the worst thing is happening, but it turns out everything is happening for a reason. You just have to persist, and keep going, and be vigilant.”

Bowery added, “It was a very special moment, and it's something I'll always remember and look back on. I couldn't have asked for a better day. Usually you commission at the college where you graduate. I was supposed to commission in May, and ended up commissioning in September. At the time it was disappointing (to have to wait) but now I don't think I could have asked for anything better for it to happen that way.”

She is currently stationed at the University of Memphis, but in early December Bowery will transfer to Pensacola (Fla.) Naval Station to attend Naval Fight Training School. Her plan is to become a Naval flight officer.

“If you don't know what that is, if you've ever seen Top Gun, that's basically (the character) Goose,” Bowery said.

Among her accomplishments at the University of Memphis, Bowery was the 2019 Paul H. Sisco Award recipient, which recognizes the most outstanding student in the University of Memphis Earth Sciences field of study.

While in the Memphis Naval Reserves Officer Training Corps, Bowery held many leadership positions, including Midshipman Commanding Officer which made her responsible for the mentoring, physical training and physical readiness of the entire Memphis Battalion in the Mid-South Region.

Bowery is also the recipient of the Chief of Naval Operations Distinguished Midshipman Graduate award which recognizes one graduating midshipman who demonstrates the highest standards of leadership, academic and military performance.

Without her four years preparation in Cherokee's NJROTC program, Bowery said none of these accomplishments would have been possible.

“Everything that the Senior Naval Science Instructor and Naval Science Instructor taught me helped me become the person I am today, to get through that, because it's pretty challenging. Without their preparation there's no way I could have made it through that.”

During the Sept. 28 ceremony Shumate read a speech, stating in it that he sees a bright future laid out for Bowery.

Shumate said he knows Bowery will work hard and earn her position in the navy. He then presented Bowery her commissioning certificate signed by the President and the Secretary of the Navy.