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Two UNG cadets ranked in top five in the nation

Gomez and Wenzel top 5 cadets
Cadet 1st Lt. Andrew Gomez of Cumming, Georgia, left, is ranked second in the nation and Cadet Lt. Col. Bryton Wenzel of Albany, Georgia, right, is ranked fifth out of 5,536 ROTC cadets.

Two Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) cadets at the University of North Georgia (UNG) have ranked in the top five – out of 5,536 cadets – in this year’s U.S. Army Cadet Command national Order of Merit List. Cadet 1st Lt. Andrew Gomez of Cumming, Georgia, is ranked second in the nation and Cadet Lt. Col. Bryton Wenzel of Albany, Georgia, is ranked fifth.

Cadets are ranked on the national Order of Merit List (OML) by achieving superior grade point averages, strong performance in the Army physical fitness test, proving their worth as exceptional leaders in their college ROTC training, and their performance at Advanced Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky. With more than 5,000 cadets from across the nation ranked on this year’s OML, it is extraordinary that two cadets from the same university are ranked among the top five nationally.

"One of only six senior military colleges in the country, UNG has a long-standing national reputation for excellence and has produced more than 50 general officers since its founding," UNG President Bonita C. Jacobs said. “I am proud that our legacy continues to grow and that this year we have two cadets who placed among the top five in the nation."

This is the third time in four years that UNG cadets placed in the top 10 in the nation – Jonathan Strickland of Gainesville, Georgia, was the No. 1 cadet in 2014 and Eric Gleason of Marietta, Georgia, was ranked eighth in 2015.

Each fall, in conjunction with their branch selections, all Army ROTC senior cadets from around the country are ranked in a national OML. A cadet's positioning on the OML can determine his or her priority in being chosen for the branch or occupational specialty of choice; cadets who are ranked highly on the list typically are given their first choice.

"These two young men represent the very best of UNG and our Corps of Cadets and we are very proud of their accomplishment," said Col. Brent Cummings, professor of military science at UNG. "Our cadets are achieving tremendous results and I’m very grateful for the support of this great institution and our alumni as we train the future leadership of our Army."

Gomez and Wenzel have shared some friendly competition during their years in UNG’s Corps of Cadets that has pushed them to excel. While both said they initially were stunned to get the news, now that reality is starting to sink in, each credits his success to the help and support of others.

“Really and truly, I just sat there and read it a couple of times to make sure that it was my name and the second thing I thought was ‘What did Gomez get?’ because we’ve been in some competition,” said Wenzel, who at one time was Gomez’s commanding officer. “I just reflect on all the hard work that I’ve done and I thank all of those other people who have helped me along the way.”

Gomez, a three-year recipient of the Army ROTC Scholarship, is majoring in computer science and seeks to commission into the U.S. Army's Cyber Corps. Gomez has a 3.87 GPA and has been on the UNG's Dean's List for five semesters. He serves in the Corps of Cadets' Headquarters Company. He graduated from North Forsyth High School in Cumming, Georgia, and is the son of Audrey and Albeiro Gomez.

“All the hard work of others who helped out to get me here has really paid off,” Gomez said. “Honestly, it’s just all the great leaders who are here who have developed others to be better leaders. One of the biggest things I love about the University of North Georgia is that everyone is just trying to help each other.”

As a recipient of the federal Army ROTC Scholarship, Gomez has committed to serve as an officer in the Army, Army National Guard or Army Reserve. The scholarship can pay either tuition and fees or room and meals; a monthly stipend; and $1,200 per year for books.

A recipient of the state-funded UNG Georgia Military Scholarship, Wenzel is majoring in nursing and seeks to commission into the Corps of Engineers. Wenzel has a 3.95 GPA and has been named to the UNG Dean's List and President's Honor Roll throughout his four years at UNG. He serves as the commander of the Corps of Cadets' 2nd Battalion. He graduated from Baconton Community Charter School in Baconton, Georgia, and is the son of Tina and Jeff Coalson.

A recipient of the UNG Georgia Military Scholarship, Wenzel has committed to serve four years in the Georgia Army National Guard after graduation. The full scholarship, worth $70,000 over four years, is offered each year only to full-time UNG students serving as enlisted members of the Guard and pays for tuition, books, fees, room, board, and uniforms.

In addition to Gomez and Wenzel, 10 other UNG cadets also finished in the top 10 percent in the nation: Addyson Albershardt, Cameron Hite, Justin James, Reed Johnston, Hayden Pilgrim, Davis Ponder, Devin Smith, Trevor Smits, Aaron Wallace, and Jack Ward. Additionally, the following 25 UNG cadets finished in the top 20 percent: Steven Barfield, Vicky Cheairs, Christopher Dilidili, Lydia Eng, Brendan Fowler, Zackary Garner, Jonathan Geller, Timothy Hoell, Colton Hudson, Kristin Kelly, Michael Lockwood, Dylan Martin, William McCray, Todd Miller, William Nase, Dustin Nguyen, Allen Reuter, Jean Philippe Rossy, Taylor Sinclair, Chase Slocumb, Harrison Smith, Zachary Toler, Justin Trammel, Anthony Twitty, Caleb Yarbro. All 47 cadets earn recognition as Distinguished Military Graduates based on their ranking in top 20 percent and above on the OML.

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