It is not every day that a Lambda Chi alumnus reaches one of the highest ranks in the South Dakota Army National Guard, but April 30th, 2019 happened to be that day. Mike Oster (Lambda-Theta ’91) was promoted to Brigadier General; he will be in charge of all 3,100 Soldiers in the Army National Guard for the State of South Dakota. After 33 years of service, Oster’s goal of becoming the second highest rank and becoming a one-star general has finally taken effect.
In order to get this high honor, timing is key. There is, typically, only one Army one-star general at a time, and the position will open up only as the previous holder is retiring. Receiving the star requires years of service and experience in skills like strategic planning, but the hard labor of his first position, combat wire installation as an enlisted Soldier, also played a role. As Oster describes it, “the stars literally had to align for me to receive my star.”
Though the South Dakota Army National Guard developed Oster’s leadership experience, it did not begin there. His journey began as the High Alpha for Lambda-Theta Zeta, an opportunity that prompted his run as the Student Body President of South Dakota State University. As he became more involved in the community of Bookings, SD, he decided to run for the city commission at the age of 22. He won, became the police and fire commissioner and got married all before completing his degree. With his diploma in hand, it was time to begin his journey through the South Dakota Army National Guard.
“It’s a much broader spectrum of leadership. It really widens your lense on what you’re looking at, what you are responsible for, what you want them to know and who you need to have on your team to make it successful. With more rank and responsibility, you have more challenges and things you need to be prepared for” says Oster.
Oster went through additional schooling in order to become an officer and move up in rank; his promotion has been over 30 years in the making. After receiving the phone call that it was a done deal, they planned a ceremony to celebrate Oster and his newly appointed position.
“The army is full of rituals and ceremonies and formal things we do when things like this happen. When you get promoted, you get federally recognized. Then they do what is called a ‘pinning’ ceremony where they physically change your rank from a Colonel to Brigadier General. It’s an opportunity to make it very public and include the soldiers you are leading. It recognizes the individual but also those that have helped them attain this new rank and responsibility. says Oster.
After the formal rituals and pinning of the newly appointed Brigadier General, Oster attended a social gathering to thank the ones who helped him along the way. Family, friends and members of the community gather to celebrate the new position and provide support. While each of these traditions are standard when a promotion occurs at any rank, this one was particularly special for Oster.
His lifelong Lambda Chi brothers congratulated him as the word spread across social media. These are the ones who pushed for him to become High Alpha and learn how to communicate effectively. They voted for him to become the city commissioner in his pursuit to learn more about leadership. Lastly, they prayed for his safety as he embarked on a journey that wouldn’t have happened without their reassurance.
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