WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 2, 2014) -- At a standing-room-only ceremony in the Pentagon auditorium, Friday, the Army chief of staff recognized 28 company-grade commissioned and warrant officers for epitomizing the ideals of the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Leadership Awards -- duty, honor, country.
Before presenting each Soldier with an engraved 15-pound bronze bust of MacArthur mounted on a walnut pedestal, and slipping his personal coin into the hand of each officer, Gen. Ray Odierno called for applause from the families who have stood behind and supported their Soldiers.
"Just to put this in perspective, this is the 27th year of the award, and there have been 677 recipients, so just think about that. Think about the thousands upon thousands of officers, warrant officers, lieutenants and captains who have gone through the ranks of our Army in all three components."
The MacArthur Award recipients come from the active Army, National Guard and Army Reserve. "Only 677 have been recognized so you should be very proud of your accomplishments here today," Odierno said.
He took a few minutes to talk about the importance of leadership as he looked at the future of the Army and the complexity of the world that's coupled with uncertainty, particularly during times of fiscal constraints and concerns about resources. The one thing that's constant is leadership, he said.
"The one advantage we maintain in our armed forces and of which I am very proud specifically, is the development of our leaders," Odierno said, adding there is no more important job in the Army than that of a company-grade officer. "You are the individuals who are there every single day with our Soldiers, the most precious resource we have in our Army, our Soldiers."
He added that the awardees were representative of thousands who have the responsibility to ensure Soldiers are trained, ready and meeting the highest standards necessary for the many missions the country undertakes globally.
"I've been using the example lately of four 150-man companies out of the 173rd Airborne Brigade -- one in Latvia, one in Estonia, one in Lithuania and one in Poland, who are each led by a company commander with platoon leaders and with our non-commissioned officers who are frankly executing U.S. strategic policy and assuring our Eastern European allies against Russian aggression," Odierno said.
"These are company-grade officers conducting strategic-level operations. And, that happens all around the world and that's why it's so important for us to invest in our young leaders; to invest, to ensure they have the capabilities to do the complex jobs they're going to have to do," he said.
One recipient from the Oregon National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nicholas D. Thompson, said the award was unexpected and that he was very humbled.
"The reason why I'm here is because of my leaders and subordinates who have been before and behind me who have made me the leader I am today," said the 18-year veteran. "I look at this as more of a group award representing my subordinates and my leaders than I do as a personal award for myself."
Black Hawk pilot and West Point grad Capt. Nerea M. Cal agreed with Thompson that she was more a representative of the Soldiers under and over her.
"A couple of the awardees and I were discussing this, being very humbled that we were selected for something like this," she said. "We all really, truly feel that it's not an individual award, it's very much a unit and team award, and that's reflected in the description of the award itself where it describes the awardees as those who have built cohesive and positive teams. My only regret is that I couldn't bring my whole unit."
"I'm a firm believer in leading by example and leading from the front. First and foremost, good leaders have to be out there with their Soldiers," said 18-year veteran Capt. William M. Dudley of the North Carolina National Guard. "This is definitely an honor, especially when you look at the company that it keeps throughout the years that it's been around only 600 and something recipients and the hundreds of thousands of officers who have come through in the past 27 years. I'm very proud and humbled to be part of the MacArthur awards tradition."