As the snow fell on a frigid Pullman campus last December, family, friends, and cadets gathered in the warm and decorated Lewis Alumni Centre for a ceremony that has taken place on campus for over 125 years.
Lucas LeMaster and Thomas Schuett were receiving their commissions as US Army lieutenants from the Washington State University Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.
A familiar face for LeMaster stepped up to the podium as the guest speaker: his father, Major General Dennis P. LeMaster (’87 Forest & Range Mgmt). It was a ceremony the general knew well. He was also commissioned through WSU ROTC in 1987 before embarking on a successful US Army career that culminated in his current station as commanding general of the US Army Medical Center of Excellence (MEDCoE).
Major General LeMaster shared his leadership lessons with the cadets and audience, along with his own memories from his time with WSU ROTC’s Cougar Battalion.
He noted that WSU ROTC “offered me what I’d been looking for since high school football—a sense of belonging to a team.” The general recalled tough physical training but real camaraderie. “Cougar Rangers was a blast! Every Wednesday at the Field House we trained on patrolling, marksmanship, rappelling, field craft. The same group would socialize together, too. We were a tight bunch.”
Schuett and Lucas LeMaster then took their oath, gave their first salute, and celebrated with fellow ROTC cadets and family. They graduated the following day.
Both LeMasters, father and son, knew about the rigors of ROTC before they joined. Lucas’s grandfather, Dennis C. LeMaster (’61, ’70 MA, ’74 PhD Econ.), also received his ROTC commission as a second lieutenant the same day he graduated from WSU in 1961.
He served in the US Army through August 1964 as an armor officer and received the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service. The older Dennis then joined the FBI as a special agent from 1966 through 1968, working in the Denver and Los Angeles offices on several major cases, including the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. He returned to WSU and received his doctorate in economics, worked for the US Congress, and took a faculty position at WSU in 1978. He retired from Purdue University in 2005 and now lives in Everett.
His son Dennis grew up in Pullman and, after he graduated from WSU, was assigned to the Army medical corps. He went on to a decorated career that included graduate degrees from Webster University and Army War College. He assumed command of the MEDCoE in 2020.
The three generations of LeMaster officers represent an ROTC tradition at Washington State that hails from the beginning of the institution. Army ROTC is the university’s oldest program, in continuous operation since 1892.
Military science was one of eight original departments at Washington Agricultural College, and military science courses were required for all male students as part of the Morrill Land Grant Act until 1976. An estimated 10,000 Washington State students have participated as cadets, with over 7,000 becoming Army lieutenants.
For Major General LeMaster, “the whole experience began for me personally in 1984 and culminates with commissioning my son, so this is the best part of my ROTC experience.” He adds, “I am eternally grateful for the support that the university administration gives to the ROTC program.”
Lucas, who received his civil engineering degree, says it felt like destiny to join the program. “I’ve always just kind of seen myself coming to Washington State University and joining ROTC, especially after visiting as a junior in high school.”
He now heads to Fort Benning in Georgia for further training.
Another unexpected honor was also given at the December ceremony. The WSU Alumni Association presented both Dennis C. and Dennis P. LeMaster with the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor from the WSUAA.