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Gainesville native recognized as nation's top Army cadet
Ceremony at Capitol honors UNG's Strickland
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Georgia’s first lady Sandra Deal speaks with fellow Gainesville native Cadet Capt. John “Chase” Strickland on Wednesday at the Capitol in Atlanta. Strickland, a University of North Georgia cadet, is the No. 1 Army ROTC cadet in the U.S. - photo by Kristen Oliver

The No. 1 Army cadet in the U.S. is from Gainesville, and Gov. Nathan Deal couldn’t be prouder of the University of North Georgia’s Cadet Capt. Jonathan “Chase” Strickland.

“We are very, very proud,” said Deal. “I have the distinct honor of knowing his family, his father and generations of his family, and they have all been dedicated servants of the state of Georgia and of our country.”

Strickland was recognized at the state Capitol on Wednesday for his ranking as the No. 1 Army cadet in the nation. Resolutions were passed in both the Senate and the House honoring Strickland for this accomplishment, and a number of North Georgia legislators showed their support, including Sens. Butch Miller and Steve Gooch and Reps. Carl Rogers and Emory Dunahoo.

A commendation ceremony and reception were also held, with Deal and first lady Sandra Deal in attendance. The governor commended Strickland and UNG for their hard work and achievements.

“I’m just honored to be here today,” Chase Strickland said. “This has been a great opportunity, not only for me but for my family, and to be a representative of the University of North Georgia, which means so much to me. The U.S. Army, the National Guard — there are so many affiliations, and I’m proud to represent.”

UNG President Bonita Jacobs said the university is used to seeing its cadets excel. This year, nearly one-third of the university’s graduating cadets ranked in the top 20 percent of 5,617 cadets in the nation.

“We are so excited and so proud of him,” Jacobs said of Strickland. “This is such an honor for him to be No. 1 out of nearly 6,000 cadets in the nation. Our corps of cadets is so strong anyway, we’re used to, at North Georgia, having a lot of cadets excel and be distinguished military graduates. It’s in our DNA.”

Col. Dwayne Wilson, commander of the 78th Aviation Troop Command in the Georgia National Guard, was also present for the commendation ceremony and recognized Strickland’s humility in the midst of such praise and recognition.

Strickland’s father, John Strickland, said he was impressed the colonel recognized such humility in his son.

“Within one hour he brought up what he thought would carry Chase a long way, which was his humility,” John Strickland said. “I thought that was remarkable, that in that short amount of time he picked up on it. So I’m just very proud and I know he’s going to go as far as he wants to go.”

Chase Strickland said he is grateful to UNG for providing “a steppingstone” to his future.

He commissions May 1 into the U.S. Army and graduates from the university May 2. He will go to basic officer leadership training from June to October at Fort Benning, followed by Ranger School. He doesn’t have a duty station yet, but he said he feels sure he will end up where he hopes to be.

“I’m confident that I’ll be stationed in Europe, and that’s where I want to be,” he said. “I have a very confident outlook on my future.”

John Strickland said the events at the Capitol marked “a very proud day” for him.

“The turnout from the governor recognizing him, to me getting to be a representative of North Georgia and what that institution is producing for our military and from the civilian side as well, I’m just very proud of his accomplishments and his hard work,” John Strickland said.

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