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NEWS | Jan. 13, 2016

Direct to gold: USARJ community welcomes former sergeant first class to the officer corps

By Sgt. John Carkeet IV U.S. Army Japan

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – In today’s Army, it’s rare for a noncommissioned officer to earn a direct commission. It’s rarer still to see this unique distinction unfold overseas, but that’s what happened at U.S. Army Japan’s headquarters Jan. 6, 2016.

For the first time in recent history, U.S. Army Japan in conjunction with the Army Reserve conducted a direct commissioning ceremony as friends, loved ones and fellow Soldiers welcomed a former sergeant first class and current Department of the Army civilian to the officer corps.  

“It was time,” said newly promoted Army 2nd Lt. Riki R. Riordan, a signal officer recently assigned to the 311th Signal Command (Theater) headquartered in Hawaii. “After 15 years serving in the enlisted ranks, I felt ready to take on the responsibilities of an officer while opening opportunities for outstanding NCOs to take my place.”

“The Army expects its officers to exhibit a high degree of competence, character and commitment,” added Army Maj. Gen. James F. Pasquarette, commanding general, U.S. Army Japan. “I believe Riordan acquired these traits long before he enlisted … It was a great honor and distinct pleasure to preside over his commissioning ceremony.”

Unlike traditional commissioning paths, Riordan earned his gold bars without having first graduated from the Army’s U.S. Military Academy, Officer Candidate School (OCS) or a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. Direct commissions for active duty service members are typically available only to select civilians with advanced degrees in law, medicine or theology. However, highly qualified, Army Reserve noncommissioned officers like Riordan may apply for gold bars for this highly competitive program.

“I put together an intricate packet that included my enlisted records, college transcripts and letters of recommendation,” said Riordan, a Tokyo native residing in Zama City with his wife and former high school sweetheart, Miyuki, and their 17-month old daughter, Julie. “Afterwards I attended a field board, and from there my packet was approved for submission to [Human Resources Command] for final review … My packet would have never made it that far if it wasn’t for the Soldiers who guided me through the direct commission process and a loving family who supported me every step of the way.”

After months of preparation and anticipation, Riordan received his promotion orders and new assignment. It was not long before the USARJ community recognized this uncommon achievement with a ceremony boasting the pomp and pageantry befitting of a newly appointed officer.

“I’m humbled but not surprised that the command went to such great lengths to celebrate this career milestone,” said Riordan. “After working in Camp Zama for several years as a civilian, I know firsthand how well USARJ cares for its Soldiers and families while recognizing their accomplishments.”

Soon after graduating from Camp Zama High School, Riordan enlisted in the Army in 2000 as a cavalry scout. He served with distinction in Korea and the United States before moving to Japan and transitioning into the Army Reserve in 2003. Riordan continued to serve his country as a drill sergeant and a Contingency Acquisition Support Model subject matter expert for U.S. Army Japan. In addition to managing complex projects and raising a family, Riordan also actively participated in the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, a highly selective organization that supports and recognizes the Army’s most exemplary NCOs.  

“Riordan’s career both in and out of uniform speaks very highly of his devotion to the Army and his family,” said Pasquarette, who conducted Riordan’s first official oath of office as a commissioned officer. “Thanks to his experience as an NCO, a civilian supervisor and a loving husband and father, he has a high degree of confidence and competence to lead Soldiers that will distinguish him from his West Point, OCS and ROTC counterparts.”

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family and the amazing people that make up the USARJ community,” said Riordan. “Although I have much to learn from the challenges that await me as a second lieutenant, I look forward to leading some of the world’s finest men and women in the world’s finest Army.”

For more information about the direct commissioning program, visit