CARLISLE BARRACKS, Pa. (June 11, 2014) -- Vice Chief of Staff of the Army General John Campbell linked the strategic achievement of D-Day to his expectations for The War College Class of 2014, in his commencement remarks to students, families, faculty, and friends here, Friday.
Almost 150 classes have graduated from the U.S. Army War College since its creation in 1901. None have reflected better the military heritage, celebration of relationships, and palpable pride in academic challenge well-met as the 2014 resident graduation.
On a parade field that has witnessed 257 years of Army history and innovations in Army Schools, the Pennsylvania Army National Guard artillery salute, the 78th Army Reserve Band, and the national flags and uniforms of 77 International Fellows, added color and significance to the celebration on behalf of the 385 students who leave Carlisle prepared to serve at the strategic level.
Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, 49th Army War College commandant, offered personal remarks to the students in the last moments before they transition to strategic responsibilities, a week before he transitions to civilian life.
"Knowing who you are, knowing what you have done in your personal and professional lives to this point, knowing what you represent as you leave here -- allows me to depart with great confidence in you and great confidence in our future," Cucolo said.
"We need you. We need to step back into the fray -- your game, so to speak, now well-raised in comparison to a year ago -- and execute your assigned duties as complex problems solvers at the strategic level," Cucolo continued. "Expect your moral courage to be tested, frequently, and recognize that exercising such courage often comes with professional risk.
"Don't be a coward," he urged. "Say what must be said when no one wants to hear it. Do what must be done, [regardless of whether or not] others fear the outcome. Act when all those around you are frozen spectators, safe in their grandstand seats.
"You know, an amazing thing happens when you stare professional risk in the face. The reasons why you serve come sharply into view, for self or for others. If you find your decisions defaulting to self, please get out. There's an old saying, 'if you always stand on the moral high ground, you'll always be in the right place.' From there, you'll be content and confident knowing that you have been true to those who have trusted you with their lives," said Cucolo, who introduced Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John Campbell as, "a proud U.S. Army War College graduate, a warrior, an officer and a gentleman who exemplifies that moral courage I speak of."
CAMPBELL ADDRESSES CLASS OF 2014
Campbell opened his comments with a salute to the 150,000 Allied troops who landed in France on D-Day, 70 years ago.
"Eisenhower, Patton, Bradley and Halsey are just a few of the leaders that gained their strategic foundation in the Army War College, and would plan what was the most complex U.S. military operation of World War II.
"Just as the Army planned for a year in England, before D-Day 1944, so you have prepared for a year to launch on the next important phase of your career as strategic leaders," he said to a student body that reflected the joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational nature of the strategic security environment. The class was comprised of 216 Army officers, Active Component, National Guard and Army Reserve; 14 Navy, 17 Marine Corps, 32 Air Force, 1 Coast Guard, 28 senior federal civilians, and 77 international officers.
"Our Army is committed to engagement around the world, and it starts here, with exchanging ideas, hearing different perspectives, and forming bonds that will last long after your time in Carlisle," said Campbell, who noted the prestige of the international fellows who will leave Carlisle to lead their nations' armies. This is the largest class of international fellows to date -- 77 representing 67 different countries.
STRATEGIC LEADERS LEAD TRANSFORMATION
"As strategic leaders you will orchestrate a difficult transformation ... but we have been here before, and like Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton before you, your generation is prepared for this challenge," he said.
Secretary of Defense William Cohen's message in Gen. Campbell's yearbook seems as relevant today as it did in 1999, he said.
"'On the precipice of the 21st century, America faces a world that is as dangerous as it is complex -- a landscape of established and emerging threats, rising ethnic conflicts, rogue regimes and asymmetric threats such as cyber warfare,'" said Campbell, relaying that message.
"Today we are thinking hard about 'Force 2025 and Beyond,' which is the Army's plan to build a more globally responsive, scalable, and agile force that retains overmatch against increasingly capable opponents," Campbell said. "It will be flexible and adaptable enough for training and advisory missions, absolutely lethal when necessary and robust enough to fight a major ground war or deter one from ever happening. The Army will be able to influence events at the increasingly rapid speed that they unfold. What the 173d Airborne [Brigade] is doing in Poland and the Baltic States, and what our conventional and Special Operations Forces are doing across Africa, is the model for Regionally Aligned forces.
"When we talk about Force 2025, it seems like such a long way off, but then I realize that my time in The War College is further away from us now than 2025 ... and while my War College class led the changes of the last 15 years, we will be long gone from the Army by 2025, and you will execute this next very difficult transition, with less forces, with a steadily shrinking budget, and against a arguably more dangerous, without a doubt more complex, opponent.
"But I am optimistic, because your skills were molded by 12 years of hard combat, and now, broadened with an education in strategic thinking," said Campbell.
ARMY WAR COLLEGE TEAMMATES ARE A SOURCE OF STRENGTH
"It is not the outward prestige of your unit that matters, but the quality of the crew that is inside," said Campbell, who urged the colonels, lieutenant colonels and senior civilians to keep in touch and reach to their War College teammates for advice and collaboration.
He listed 1999 graduates -- Gen. Joe Dunford, Gen. Dennis Via, and War College Fellow Gen. Vince Brooks, Lt. Gen. Mick Bednarek, Don Campbell, Bernie Champoux, Susan Lawrence, Mike Tucker, Jim Huggins and fellow Mike Ferriter, Maj. Gen. Ken Dowd, Mike Lally, Todd Semonite, Mark McDonald and Roger Matthews -- among the leaders with whom he has interacted and called for help from, "nearly every day."
"The relationships I built with interagency civilians during my Army War College have become bridges across our government," said Campbell to the class. "The same holds true for the relationships with our international officers -- though these span across the world."
ENFORCE THE VALUES OF THE ARMY PROFESSION, AND THE ALL VOLUNTEER FORCE WILL THRIVE
"By 1999, the all-volunteer force had been working for 20-plus years, and critical to the survival of that concept was taking care of our Soldiers and their families, so that they would want to serve in this organization," said Campbell. "You will help decide critical questions about military compensation, retirement, and heath care in a financial environment where we cannot afford the current rate of growth -- and, adequately fund preparation for combat. Furthermore, while some politicians have lost faith in the professionalism of our Force, you will protect our reputation by leading a culture change that ensures an environment that safeguards the dignity of every Soldier and Civilian. We must preserve the earned trust of the American people who place their confidence in our Army as a profession, and this culture change will only happen if the E-5 squad leader buys in, and they will only buy in if their leaders embrace it, live it, and preach it like zealots proclaiming the Gospel."
SOLDIERS ARE WHY WE EXIST
"Everything we do as strategic leaders is focused on improving the fighting ability and survivability of our Soldiers on the ground. They are why we exist. We will continue to ask them to perform dangerous but necessary tasks, and just as they have these last 12 years, they will continue to amaze us," he said. "While duty at a COCOM headquarters or in the Pentagon may not be glamorous, what you do as strategic leaders determines where Soldiers fight, how they fight, and what they are wearing -- It matters."
It's your sacred duty to build a force "that nations everywhere will respect," he said.
The 34th Vice Chief of Staff of the Army completed his reflections with comment about the 2014 class gift to The War College.
"The strength of a fist, and the torch of wisdom that comes with experience and learning -- on a foundation of rigor -- it is a powerful gift. Thank you to the spouses, for tolerating the rigor of the profession that we, as Soldiers, so love. I wish I could tell you it will get easier -- but it will not," he said. "But your class gift has inextricably linked the Class of 2014 to the Class of 1974, whose gift sits just a few feet away. It is a plaque carved with a famous quote from Gen. Creighton Abrams about the rigor of our profession: 'There must be a willingness to march a little farther, to carry a heavier load, to step out into the dark and the unknown for the safety and well-being of others.' In his final days, Abrams went on to say of the challenges the Army faces: 'We can continue to meet these challenges if we are prepared for them. If we have the will to face them resolutely before they overtake us, we shall be achieving the real peace that men everywhere can understand, and that nations everywhere will respect.'"