USMA Events Proactively Encourage Moral Awareness in Future Army Leaders
March 12, 2014
The topic of purity is not listed in the Army Values, nor does it directly appear on any list of popular leadership principles. It ranks high, though, for Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In January 2014, over 140 female Cadets, Cadet Candidates, high school students and women from the West Point community attended a Purity Tea luncheon at the prestigious Thayer Hotel in West Point, NY, to discuss applying purity in leadership in the 21st century.
The event was a proactive approach to address the Army's strategic concerns of sexual assault, women in combat, and self-esteem amongst female Army officers. It began as a women's Bible study in 2011 -- and the event continues to expand each year, offering participants a chance to step back and consider how to apply their faith values to their Army service. This year, male Cadets organized a parallel meeting to address moral leadership considerations from the male Soldier's perspective.
At the women's Purity Tea, guest speaker Karen Jaedicke, wife of Chaplain (Lieut. Col.) Paul Jaedicke, encouraged all attendees to draw closer to God, God's Word, and to each other for strength, wisdom, professional and spiritual growth, and personal accountability.
"You never get your virginity back, but you can get your purity back," Karen Jaedicke said in her remarks, which encouraged attendees to be leaders of integrity and moral character.
Cadet First Class Ashley Justice, USMA Class of ?'14 and Cadet Ashtin Kurz, USMA Class of '15 both shared personal testimony of the challenges they've overcome in trying to live a life of purity at the Academy.
"Sexual purity is not sought after much; in fact, the world rejects it," said Kurz. "Yet sexual impurity or immorality is one of the major downfalls of our senior generals and NCOs today."
Chaplain (Maj.) Pinkie Fischer, USMA regimental chaplain, organized the 2013 and 2014 Purity Tea events. She hopes that the biggest take-away from these gatherings is to learn how to not compromise being a Godly leader of excellence while training to be a commissioned leader of character.
"These future commissioned female officers are about to graduate into a 21st century Army that will have them serve side-by-side with their male counterparts in every branch," Fischer said. "These women must learn that the Army value RESPECT applies to how we see ourselves as much as it applies to how we treat others."
The Purity Tea events at West Point initially started out as part of a Bible study in February of 2011, when 20 female Cadets filled the living room of Clare Miller, a ministry leader at West Point. In February 2012, through coordination with the USMA Chaplain's office, the Bible study moved to the basement of the Cadet Chapel to accommodate 75 female Cadets. In 2013 and 2014, the overwhelming interest of having these discussions led to hosting the event in the grand ballroom at the Thayer Hotel, where over 140 female Cadets and ladies from the West Point community attended this year's Purity Tea Luncheon.
"It was a huge encouragement to see ladies across all ages present, which confirmed that this topic is not irrelevant in the 21st century," said Cadet Niki Boyda, USMA Class of ?'14. "It was at these events that I learned how to make wise choices off-duty as an officer that will compliment my actions on duty."
Cadet First Class Holly Schlotterbeck, USMA Class of ?'14 also observed the value of having women of many age groups in attendance.
"The older ladies offered support and their life experience testified to the importance of living a pure life while the younger ladies showed that the youth of today are interested in living honorably in their career ambitions," Schlotterbeck said.
The discussions helped women work through topics relevant to the changing Army -- as more roles open up to women.
"Females in the Army want to be accepted for who they are and the strengths they bring to this Profession of Arms," Chaplain Fischer said, "but some feel the only way to be received into the predominately male units is to compromise their godly and Army values they uphold including respect, integrity, and godly character."
Clare Miller and Cheri Austin, who lead two major female Bible study groups in the Corps of Cadets, helped plan the Purity Tea to include selecting literature to provide to every Cadet.
"Each Purity Tea event gives an opportunity to put into the hands of the attendees biblical thinking, which helps them see the destructive nature of promiscuity," Miller said. "They are searching for dignity and nobility as leaders and they find it in the biblical world view, many times for the first time in their lives!"
Robin Meyer, who also supports Bible studies at USMA, stressed the importance of these events in the fight against sexual assault and harassment.
"The godly concept of purity and respect for others is the antidote to the root of all that is behind the sexual harassment rampant in many areas of our military," Meyer said. "Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Program (SHARP) training is one approach in eliminating sexual assault, but it is a pure lifestyle in accordance with the Bible that will ensure a change in one's heart."
The topic of purity was not exclusively discussed by female Cadets this year. After listening to their female counterparts share the importance of having a safe platform to discuss these hard topics, male Cadets requested a meeting to discuss how to avoid becoming another statistic in sexual immorality in military leadership.
Using the theme "Renewing of your Mind" from Romans 12:1-2, 37 male Cadets spent half a day discussing topics such as sexuality, temptations, and the battles men face. Overall, organizer Tom Austin (Lieut. Col, Retired) said it was a highly successful day teaching young men how to commit to a life of purity.
"We continue to deal with issues in the military that every man has to deal with, but it is the constant renewing of one's mind through the transformation in Christ Jesus that helps each of us overcome every temptation," Austin said.