Vice chief opens high school leadership, ethics conference
March 24, 2014
By J.D. Leipold
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 24, 2014) -- Whether in civilian or military life, what the Army calls its "three C's" -- competence, character and commitment -- will play a critical role in how young Americans are able to develop into leaders, said the Army's vice chief of staff.
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell served as keynote speaker for the seventh annual "West Point Leadership and Ethics Conference," Thursday, at George Mason University in Arlington, Va.
At the conference, Campbell told some 200 delegates from 45 high schools throughout Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia that living an honorable life applies, whether in or out of uniform.
"In preparation for leadership in the Army as in life, you have to live both an honorable life in both public and in private," Campbell said.
He told the high school students in attendance at the conference that cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., each make a commitment to not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.
"You cannot separate who you are in the office and who you are in public, so every action, whether face-to-face or online is a reflection of who you are," he said.
The vice chief added that though the conference was put on by academy classmates with strong military backgrounds, living an honorable life is relative to any profession or service.
"The military service does not represent the only one in public service," he said. "To be a public servant or lead in other important causes by becoming a doctor, a teacher, a counselor, a lawyer, in law enforcement, as an elected official ... on and on and on ... the same thing goes, living an honorable life."
Campbell told the students they would experience a small sample of leadership training throughout the day and be placed in different vignettes in which difficult decisions would need to be made. He said it would develop values, ethics and "mettle under pressure."
"This conference is to engage you in a dialogue about ethical leadership ... challenge you to think about what it means to live an honorable life and to take that back, and be both examples to your peers and in your schools and eventually as leaders in service to our society," he said.
"In the Army we commonly refer to leadership in terms of what we call the three C's -- competence, character and commitment," he continued. "Competence means you're an expert at your job and that you are constantly seeking to improve and also learn."
The general then spoke about the commitment and character of two Soldiers who were recipients of the Medal of Honor -- Pfc. Ross A. McGinnis, a 19-year old who while serving as a turret gunner in a Humvee in Iraq, used his body as a shield to protect the four Soldiers riding in the Humvee from a grenade. The four all survived with minor injuries, but McGinnis was killed instantly.
"His moral ethics, his commitment to living an honorable life guided his decision at that crucial moment that would define his reputation for eternity," he said. "So when we talk about commitment and character, I think about Pfc. Ross McGinnis."
The general then spoke about the competence, commitment and character of then-Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry, who in 2008, was leading a 10-man squad from the 2nd Ranger Battalion. When a firefight broke out, Petry was shot in both thighs, yet kept his composure and led his squad to shelter.
While moving into better positions, a grenade dropped in between him and his team. Instinctively, he reached down, grabbed the grenade and heaved it back at the enemy. But as he released the grenade, it exploded, severing his right hand. He next applied a tourniquet to himself.
"He then rallied his men to return fire, which they did and killing the insurgent throwing the grenades," Campbell said. "His Soldiers trusted him because of the character he had shown in the months and years training with his men up to this incident and he inspired them to fight and win that day."
Campbell presented several short videos to impart the importance of trust between leaders and those who follow who will become leaders someday themselves.
"As a leader, in order to build your team to its maximum potential, your peers, subordinates and superiors must trust you," he said. "And, that trust comes from the strength of your moral ethic and character.
"Finally, living an honorable life will enable you to make the best decisions and earn the trust you need to be successful," Campbell concluded. "At the end of your life, when you look back on all that you have accomplished, it is not the amount of money that you made that will matter, but the number of people you have positively affected and the reputation you have left behind ... live an honorable life."
West Point's ethical decision-making model has been widely used at middle schools, high schools and colleges around the country to help develop leaders of character and instill a sense of lifelong integrity.
Following Campbell's remarks, co-chairman of the West Point Leadership and Ethics Conference and local businessman Phillip Panzarella, said what the West Point Society of the Washington, D.C., area is trying to do is send a message that leadership and ethics are very important for all future leaders regardless of what institution, what path in life a person walks.
The students faced six real-life vignettes, many of which were pulled from newspaper articles. The vignettes were ethical dilemmas in today's society. The students worked with West Point and ROTC cadets and young business who helped guide them.
"We walk the students through a decision-making process," Panzarella said, adding that it's the process which is really the most important thing because obviously no one could teach them ethics in one day. "We can teach them a methodology and a process to look at very difficult situations and how to walk through and analyze them to come up with what could be the best information and best decision at that time."
Panzarella said his class and others have been creating the "artifacts" of the program to institutionalize it. Even though the program is tied to the West Point Society of Washington, D.C., the information has been shared with public institutions in Michigan, in Florida, New York, New Jersey and in Iowa.
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