By Chief of Staff of the Army Ramond OdiernoMay 5, 2015
Good Afternoon everyone, how are we doing today? It's great to see so many families here on this great, wonderful day. COL Correa, thank you for that kind introduction, I truly appreciate it. It means a lot to me to be here today. LTG & Mrs. Cleveland, all the leadership from the seven Special Forces Groups, other distinguished guests, Retirees, Families, and Friends, again welcome.
Today, it's my great honor to be here to recognize the 81 graduates of the Special Forces Qualification Course Class 290 who are assembled in front of us here today. As has been said, you have completed some of the most rigorous training, both mentally and physically, that the Army and Special Operations has to offer. Graduates -- you, your families, and your friends should be proud of all that you have accomplished and more importantly for what you are about to embark upon as you join U.S. Army Special Forces Command in order to deploy around the world.
I would also like to take a moment to recognize the Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Soldiers, and Civilians who made this training possible. The world-class professionalism that they demonstrated throughout the training, their adherence to difficult standards, their ability to assist and help to ensure that we continue to produce great young Americans who are willing to go forward and accomplish these very difficult missions that are in front of them.
Today's Army Special Forces Soldiers are deployed on every continent, operating in remote areas where small detachments of U.S. forces often represent America's sole military presence, making difficult decisions every day in austere, uncertain, and unstructured environments. Because we ask them to conduct critical missions in complex conditions that require incredibly unique skills, Army Special Forces, our Green Berets, are specially selected, trained, and challenged to meet a higher standard of individual and small team proficiency building confidence and maintaining the strong tradition of excellence that has been exemplified in the many Green Beret's who came before them.
Since the 1960s, we have asked much of our Special Forces. When President Kennedy visited to Fort Bragg on October 12, 1961, General Yarborough, who wore his Green Beret to greet the commander-in-chief, briefed the President on the increasing need for unconventional capabilities around the world. The President remarked at the conclusion of the visit that "the challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one," and he commented that "I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead."
These words proved true as our country fought communist aggression in the Vietnam War and all the many conflicts thereafter. They have come to stand for the Spirit of the Green Beret -- the embodiment of the dedication, specialization, and professionalism expected of every Army Special Operator.
Countless stories recount the heroism, courage, and strength of our 12-man teams fighting in the jungles and mountains of South East Asia. It should not be surprising the first Medal of Honor awarded in Vietnam was to a young Special Forces Captain who along with his team prevented their firebase from being overrun. Throughout the Vietnam conflict and for the years after, Green Berets have been forward and have remained the United States Army's premier fighting force.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, America looked first again to the Army Special Forces to respond. On a November night in 2001, five Blackhawk helicopters infiltrated southern Afghanistan, dropping Operational Detachment Alpha 574 deep behind enemy lines. Soon after two more teams reinforced that effort. Fourteen years later, Special Forces Teams are still at the forefront in Afghanistan. Always in remote locations, always with indigenous forces, Green Berets remain the experts influencing people, developing enduring partnerships, and fostering long-term relationships.
That is what we have grown to expect of our Special Forces.
Now more than ever, the twin tenets of special warfare: unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense will be at a premium in an era of dwindling resources. Make no mistake, to navigate through these uncertain times, we must be able to deter and defeat aggression not only by ourselves, but "by, with, and through" our partner nations. And that means our Green Berets.
For our Graduates, you have proven that you have what it takes to succeed. Today you are recognized as the Army's newest 18-Series Soldiers. You will soon join the centerpiece of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command's capability -- the Operational Detachment Alpha. Twelve Soldiers, specially assessed, selected, and trained from different backgrounds and experiences in the Army designed to deploy anywhere in the world with little or no notice with the ability to face complex, ambiguous, and challenging environment the world over. And we need problem solvers of your caliber to navigate the uncertainty that we face.
Today, as you don your Green Beret for the first time and join the ranks of the Quiet Professionals, remember what the Green Beret stands for -- dedication, professionalism, and specialization.
It was President Kennedy who felt that Army Special Forces needed something to set them apart and symbolize the distinction of the mission to which you will soon assume. As President Kennedy noted, the Green Beret is "a symbol of excellence, a badge of courage, a mark of distinction in the fight for freedom." Our Nation trusts our Special Forces to remain ready, ever vigilant, and highly effective. And I know that each and every one of you will build upon the legacy of those who came before you and will build upon those values.
It's not only about the commitment and competence that you have gained in the assessment and qualification phases, it is also about the character that you have demonstrated throughout this process and throughout your career so far in the Army.
As you move on to your first team, I am confident that each one of you will thrive in uncertainty, will continue to prove your excellence, will continue to lead in the most difficult situations. And when you go, you will win because you are Special Forces operators and members of the world's greatest Army.
The strength of our Nation is our Army.
The strength of our Army is our Soldiers.
The strength of our Soldiers is our Families.
And that's what makes us Army Strong!