VCSA's remarks at VMI Joint Commissioning Ceremony

By VCSAMay 5, 2016

Good morning General Peay, thank you for inviting me and for your great remarks and charge to these great servant leaders who are about to start this incredible journey. Welcome to the Honorable John Marsh, Jr., former Secretary of the Army, fellow General Officers, faculty, Family, friends, and most importantly, soon to be Officers and graduates of the Virginia Military Institute. Congratulations to all of you on reaching this very special day and thank you for choosing to serve.

All here today know that May 15th is the date of the heroic effort of VMI Cadets at the Battle of New Market during the Civil War. The spirit of the cadets that won the day in 1864 clearly lives on in this formation, represented in the resiliency you demonstrated during the Snow-EX . . . in late April . . . during your Spring FTX . . . represented in Captain Seitz's notorious knife-hands instructional tactics, and in your fearless leader's PT sessions complete with pro-mask and Body Armor. Seriously though, the warrior ethos embodied in this great military institution remains essential to securing our Nation today and into the Future. I attribute our global success over the last 239 years of the Army's existence to the unwavering standards to which we hold Leaders in our Profession, and the indomitable fighting spirit of the American Soldier. You are now charged to lead our Nation's premier weapon system . . . the United States Soldier . . . through the next phase of our Nation's historic journey.

You enter the Army at a historic and increasingly dangerous time. As George C. Marshall . . . one of our Nation's greatest Soldiers . . . and a VMI graduate, once said, "If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record ever known." We are globally engaged with Soldiers serving forward in 151 Nations as I stand here today. We are at war with an enemy as evil as any in our history, intent on attacking our Nation and our Families . . . and it is our great Joint Force that will ultimately hold them to account.

I wish to impart on you today two simple lessons from my 3 and a half decades of Service in our great Army. First, taking care of Soldiers is our number one responsibility . . . and the best way we care for Soldiers is to ensure their readiness, built through challenging training and high standards of discipline. In the words of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower: "History does not entrust the care of freedom to the weak or timid."

Second, what our Nation needs, above all, is Leaders of Character who thrive in a complex world. Your character will be tested, and it will be the most important test that you face. Your Soldiers will follow you anywhere if they trust you, and you will earn their trust day in and day out . . . by consistently choosing the harder right over the easier wrong . . . by standing your ground in the face of adversity. Yes, being a Leader of Character carries with it the toughest duty description on the planet . . . and also the richest of all rewards . . . the trust, respect and Love of the Soldiers you are blessed to Serve and to Lead.

Today you begin a journey that will take you places you cannot begin imagine . . . that I promise you. Look to your left and your right -- these are your brothers and sisters for life. You have suffered and sacrificed together, you have succeeded and failed together, celebrated and no doubt cried together. Hold each other accountable . . . and true to the values and spirit of this institution and of our great Profession. Thank you for allowing me to share this milestone with you. The eagerness I see in your faces both motivates and inspires me. Good luck, God Bless You, and Army Strong.

VMI Joint ROTC Commissioning Ceremony