Five young cadets waited with anticipation as lights flashed, fans screamed and music blared. It didn’t feel real. The intensity reached a fever pitch when the cadets – hearts beating, minds racing and adrenaline pumping – saw their cue to move forward. The American flag bearer gave the command, “Forward march!”

And, as the lights dimmed, it all became one big rush. The roaring crowd came to its feet and the Gannon Army ROTC color guard team right-turned, facing center ice to assume a bold position of presenting the colors of the United States.

At (7:38 p.m.) on Jan. 27, the Gannon Army ROTC color guard team enjoyed the nearly overwhelming experience of presenting the colors at a Pittsburgh Penguins game, in front of more than 18,000 roaring fans at the Consol Energy Arena and countless more tuned in to Root Sports at that very moment.

The highly dedicated team included freshman MSI Cadet Avery Craig; sophomore MSII Cadets Kayla Irwin, Nicholas Sobina, and Anthony Sinagoga and junior MSIII Color Guard Captain Cadet Krystina George.

As cadets in the Pride of PA Army ROTC battalion progress through the program, they are given the opportunity to participate in many extra forms of training, including color guard. The cadets from Gannon have remained dedicated. They have participated in practices and presented for many events around the Erie community, such as the Erie Otters and SeaWolves games, Gannon sporting events and local parades.

But presenting for the Pittsburgh Penguins fell under the category of a “once in a lifetime experience” for this group of bold cadets, according to Sobina, who also described it as one he’ll never forget.

As for Sinagoga who grew up in Pittsburgh cheering on the Penguins as a loyal fan, this experience fell nothing short of amazing.  He noted that he is “so proud of this color guard and [feels] as though this will not only benefit Gannon and the Pride of PA Army ROTC Battalion but also benefit [cadets] as future officers.”

Although this group of cadets has a couple of years to continue to develop into United States Army officers, “it sends a positive message to the community that our students are involved, being leaders, and taking active involvement in the future of our nation,” according to LTC Bradley Nadig, a professor of military science at Gannon.

The Gannon Army ROTC color guard team has plenty to take away from the many opportunities grasped by their initiative to take charge and represent the Pride of PA battalion to its fullest, like the Pittsburgh Penguins game. They do so not only by developing themselves for their future service but by also seeking out new ways to establish their role within the battalion every day.

This article by Krystina George was originally published in The Gannon Knight on Feb. 5, 2014.