By Chief of Staff of the Army Raymond OdiernoApril 15, 2015
General Skeates, Officer Cadets from the United Kingdom and around the world, staff of the Royal Military Academy, Your Highnesses, Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It's a tremendous honor to be here today to represent Her Majesty at the Sovereign's Parade. And it is an incredible privilege for me to address the future Officer Corps of America's greatest Ally.
For those graduating, today represents a significant moment. And although today's ceremony is about celebrating what you have accomplished so far, it is also about the anticipation of what you can accomplish in a lifetime of selfless service. You are about to accept a great responsibility to lead your fellow countrymen -- an honor that demands unfailing competence, commitment, and character each and every day.
I remember my commissioning ceremony at West Point almost 39 years ago. I had no idea then what challenges I would face in the future. But I knew what was expected of me -- to preserve the core values of Duty, Honor, Country -- values cultivated at West Point. These values have guided my actions, and in the face of any challenge I knew that my decisions were much bigger than me -- they reflected my unit, the Army, and the United States of America.
Such values were captured perfectly by a British Army officer, Field Marshal Sir William Slim, when he spoke at West Point to the graduating class of 1953. And his lessons apply to each of you today -- know your job, your soldiers, and your unit; be committed to your unit and the mission. Never ask your soldiers to do anything you would not do yourself; and "Serve to Lead" - making the men and women you lead your first priority. These are timeless leadership lessons that influenced our leaders so many years ago and continue to inspire us today.
As you prepare to lead in the profession of arms, I would like to offer my thoughts and build upon Field Marshal Sir William Slim's lessons on leadership.
Strive to be a leader who is competent -- able to do whatever job is given to you and do it to the best of your ability. You must constantly learn and self-develop. Be a leader who is committed -- committed to your soldiers, committed to the mission, committed to your unit, and committed to the institution you represent. Most importantly, be a leader of character - one that understands the importance of moral and ethical values. You will all face ethical dilemmas throughout your career. But will you choose the harder right over the easier wrong?
Being a successful leader is about earning the respect of your subordinates, peers, and seniors alike, through your actions and the example you set. It is about creating high performing teams - by fostering a positive command climate through the empowerment of others; by treating all with dignity and respect; and by inspiring others to achieve what was believed to be unattainable, encouraging ordinary men and women to achieve the extraordinary. There is nothing more satisfying than being a part of something greater than yourself. "Serve to Lead" taking care of your soldiers by ensuring they are trained and ready. Hold them to exacting standards, so when called upon, they are prepared.
Leadership is not a popularity contest. Soldiers depend on and expect you to make the most difficult decisions, decisively and at the right time. It is a great burden, but one that is incredibly rewarding. Along the way you will make honest mistakes, as we all do. This is all part of learning the art of leadership.
As you begin your journey, you will face a complex and dynamic world -- a world where we confront determined enemies across the globe with the desire, the capability, and an increasing capacity to threaten us in ways we have yet to fully understand. A world where we are witnessing a continuing increase in the velocity of instability driven by a variety of social, transnational, and human dynamics.
We are experiencing challenges across every continent - challenges caused by an increased competition for resources, shifting alliances, empowered networks, unprecedented information access, and quickening devolutions of power. Hostile nation-state and non-state actors are influencing the human dimension of conflict - sowing instability in the name of self-determinism to gain access to resources, terrain, and influence. Anarchy, extremism, and terrorism threatens the stability across regions around the world -- radicalism that is as predominant as it is corrosive.
We face hybrid scenarios of insurgents, criminals, transnational terrorists, and conventional forces -- something that will become even more prevalent in the next decade with the dramatic growth of megacities. Although warfare continues to evolve, what remains constant is that conflict is essentially a "contest of wills" -- a "human endeavor," fought on land to influence the people who live there.
With certainty, each of you -- the future officers of our respective Armies - will face many of these challenges and most likely will be asked to put your mark on history. That is where you, the future commanders and leaders, come in.
We will be looking to you to be leaders who are mentally and physically tough; innovative and adaptive; able to inspire others to accomplish the unthinkable. We need you to be able to think in complex, multi-domain environments, to be culturally aware and to understand the populations among which you operate. And we need you to be able to create multiple dilemmas for our enemies by integrating and synchronizing effects from all domains: air, land, sea, space and cyberspace.
The complex environments you will be operating in will require Joint, Interorganizational, and Multinational solutions -- inherent in this are strong partnerships requiring interoperability and understanding between militaries. You have to understand socio-economic impacts and have a cultural understanding of potential adversaries and those areas where you are operating. And not only must you understand the environment, but you must be able to help your Soldiers and your command understand it also.
We need you to be able to visualize how you want to lead your organization -- what you want to accomplish and the approach you want to take to achieve it. Then you have to be able to communicate it -- to your Soldiers, to your superiors, and to your Joint, Interorganizational, and Multinational partners.
As future commanders, you will be given more responsibility than many that have come before you. The decentralized and complex environment you will be operating in requires it. So take your vision and lead your unit through those changes. And throughout, ensure you constantly assess, learn, think, adjust, and adapt to continually improve yourself, your platoon, and your mission.
Tonight, at your Commissioning Ball, at the stroke of midnight, you will proudly display the rank of 2LT for the first time and officially enter the profession of arms -- a profession where you are held to a higher standard than any other. I challenge you that for everything you do, know the standard, be the standard, and enforce the standard. Soldiers, like everyone else, want to be part of high-performing, successful organizations. They want and expect high standards. They will look to you to inspire excellence. A good leader inspires his (or her) Soldiers to have confidence in him; a great leader inspires them to have confidence in themselves.
It will take every measure of competence, commitment, and above all, character to forge ahead in the most chaotic and difficult of environments. But I have confidence in you, your instructors have confidence in you, and the citizens of your countries have confidence in you to protect their values and freedom.
Standing on the field today, we have an impressive, multinational group of cadets. And what you have done together as one team over the last 48 weeks is just the beginning of what will become strong friendships and enduring bonds that transcend not only the British Army, but the US Army, and the 35 other countries represented here today. Those relationships will be more important than ever in weaving the fabric of future global security and prosperity.
As you become Lieutenants, Captains, Field Grade Officers, and future leaders of your militaries, I challenge you to maintain these friendships; help to develop the partnerships and interoperability between your countries; and at each stage, work together to promote regional and global security and stability.
So today, as I stand here facing the end of my own career in uniform, I could not be more excited for you as you begin your own. You are soon to be the newest commissioned officers, and this will rightly be one of the proudest days of your careers. The discipline of the performance of over 500 Officer Cadets on parade today is inspiring, and indicative of your readiness for the task that lies before you. You are charged with preserving the freedoms we so dearly cherish. Good Luck and May God Bless the U.S., the U.K., and all those represented here today.