VCSA's remarks at AUSA SMA Awards Luncheon

By U.S. ArmyAugust 12, 2016

VCSA recognizes Best Warrior Competition Winners at AUSA SMA Luncheon Ceremony
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Good afternoon Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey, former Sergeants Major of the Army and to all of our other distinguished guests and particularly our commanders and Sergeants Major. Welcome Soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers… and congratulations to our Award Recipients …and no I don't know who you are either, but I was thinking to myself as the SMA was recalling his run yesterday at the Army Ten-miler; and the fact that more started with him than finished with him… and I was thinking to myself…there's a strategy. You might think that well…if you let the SMA win maybe I can increase my chances of getting the title. I guess we'll find out won't we … whose strategy was right.

I am especially blessed to help recognize our Soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers of the year, and the winners of America's Army's Best Warrior Competition. Any day I get to spend with Army leaders… with the Soldiers and NCOs who make our Army the greatest land force in history… is a great day… today is certainly morale sustaining. So, thank you.

One of the distinct honors I share with our Army's Senior Leaders is the opportunity to represent our Army to a host of external audiences… across the Nation and yes even across the world… many of whom don't regularly interact with our Army or its Soldiers. As I meet with these audiences I get to tell the Army's story… and what an amazing story it is! After 14 years of war, we have the deepest bench of combat tested leaders in the Nation's history and today, our Army has over 180,000 Total Force Soldiers supporting Combatant Commanders in over 140 locations around the globe: some deployed, some forward stationed, and some supporting overseas missions from home station. It is the character, competence and commitment of our Soldiers… and Soldiers here today… that make our Army a Championship Team… that is known to be. A team…. I am exceptionally blessed to be a Teammate on. How about a round of applause for America's Championship Team the "United States Army".

In a few moments, we will recognize the winners of The Best Warrior Competition. This competition is widely recognized as the "All Star Game" of American Army competitions, showcasing the characteristics that have guided the world's premier Non-Commissioned Officers Corps through 240 years of service to our Nation. This four-day competition tests aptitude in urban warfare, board interviews, physical fitness, written exams, and warrior tasks and battle drills relevant to today's operating environment. The Best Warrior Competition recognizes Soldiers who demonstrate commitment to our Army values, embody the Warrior Ethos, and represent the Force of our Future. The 39 elite competitors from 13 commands represent the best of what our Army is about… and demonstrate to all of us what it takes to Win in a Complex World.

More than just being the theme for this year's AUSA Annual Meeting, Win in a Complex World is the foundation of how our Army thinks about future combat operations. Win in a Complex World is the thesis of the Army Operating Concept and is designed to lead intellectual change for our Army. The Army Operating Concept guides our future force development by identifying first order capabilities, providing the foundation for our learning... and for applying what we continue to learn as we build the future force. It acknowledges that our Nation cannot predict who it will fight, where it will fight, or with what coalition it will fight. Future operations, in complex environments, require our Army to develop small unit leaders, capable of decentralized operations… leaders who thrive in uncertainty, adapt to their environment, and take prudent risk based on their commander's intent. Today, all across the globe, our Companies, Platoons, and Squads are preventing conflict, shaping security environments, and training to ensure that when called upon… our Army will win our Nation's wars.

This places a high demand on decisive leadership at every echelon… from the squad… to the Joint Task Force level… and beyond. And because of this… it is incumbent upon all of us to understand and apply the principles of the Army Operating Concept in everything that we do. For our Army to win in a complex world, the Army Operating Concept must animate the way we think, the way we lead and the way we communicate... it must drive change from the tactical to the strategic level.

Our Army needs you to digest, understand and apply the principles of the Army Operating Concept as we transform into a more agile, adaptable, and expeditionary force, capable of winning wherever and whenever we're called to serve. As Soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers, you play a vital role in helping our Army navigate this period of transition. We need you to apply the hard-won lessons from 14 years of combat as you train the next generation of Soldiers and leaders for operations in increasingly complex environments. More than that… our Army needs your candid, thoughtful feedback as we continue to grow and adapt the force of the future. Your feedback is one of the most essential elements in the development of solutions… from adapting the right doctrine… to developing the best systems… to improving the way that we train… and validating our operational concepts with repetitions of vigor and critical insight.

I am reminded of the powerful role our Soldiers and Non-Commissioned Officers play in shaping the Army of the future when I witness the Army Warfighting Assessment and Network Integration Evaluation in action at Fort Bliss, Texas. These two events are designed to get new systems into Soldiers' hands early, incorporate their feedback, and test them in realistic, force-on-force maneuvers. Twice a year… in the heat and dust of Fort Bliss… the Soldiers and leaders of 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division alone with many Joint and Coalition Teammates conduct network-enabled, Combined Arms Maneuver against a world class opposing force, testing new technologies like the Soldier Borne Sensor, a miniaturized, unmanned aerial system and the Multipurpose Unmanned Tactical Transport that serves as a robotic "mule," to carry weapons, ammunition and supplies for dismounted Soldiers... how I'd loved to have a few of those as a young Ranger Company Commander!

Now… after 34 plus years of being around Soldiers in the field, I know one thing… they'll always tell you exactly what they think… good, bad and yes the ugly. This is exactly what happens at the Army Warfighting Assessments and Network Integration Evaluation. Just last week, Soldiers and NCOs of 2/1AD tested the new Soldier Borne Sensor… a UAS small enough to fit in a cargo pocket… with a range of one-mile and capable of day and night full-motion video. During their tests, Soldiers uncovered limitations in the quality of video, especially at night. Their feedback was given directly to the developer, who will now improve the system before it is fielded. Critical feedback, like this, enables our Army to refine its systems early, saving millions of dollars… and more importantly, ultimately getting the best possible equipment to our formations… hopefully at combat speed. This is one of the powerful roles you will continue to play in preparing the Army to win in its' complex world.

And you are able to do this because you have tested and refined your craft in the crucible of combat for the last 14 years. You understand how to adapt, think critically under stress… and lead decisively through adverse conditions. But, these skills are not limited to operations in Afghanistan or Iraq… they are timeless attributes of military leadership… and they are being applied throughout the world today by the most professional Non-Commissioned Corps ever assembled.

Consider this example from our Regionally Aligned Forces support to Africa. Within 36 hours of putting boots on the ground in Camp Lemonier, Djibouti at the outset of their Iraq mission, a sergeant first class, platoon sergeant, led a small team of non-commissioned officers to Burundi to train security forces for operations in Somalia. For six weeks, this platoon sergeant and his team lived along-side their Burundian partners, with no Company, Battalion or Brigade headquarters within 2,000 miles… I say again… 2,000 miles away from their chain of command…. Does that sound awesome or what… Sounds like an Army leader's dream! This NCO and his team adapted the prescribed Program of Instruction to match the specific needs of the Burundi forces and interacted daily with Burundi army leadership and U.S. State Department representatives for mission guidance and essential support.

The most important element of this story is that the Burundi security forces then deployed to Mogadishu in support of the African Union mission. Over the last several years, these and units from other African nations, trained in coordination with U.S. Department of State, Special Forces Command, and our multi-national partners, have been credited with "taking back the night" from Al Shabaab in Mogadishu and helping to reverse the operational momentum of Al Shabaab throughout Somalia. This is the power of our Non Commissioned Officers Corps: empowered leaders, understanding the strategic context and operating within the Commander's Intent to accomplish the assigned mission. And these operations place an enormous premium on the quality, breadth and depth of our leaders… like you… at every echelon of our Army.

This vignette is playing out across the globe by our distributed, empowered, Leaders of Character. The young Soldiers, Non Commissioned Officers, and Officers operating across our Army are truly impressive. These Soldiers and leaders give the United States Army a decisive advantage over our adversaries. And it is because of the American Soldier that I remain confident in our Army's ability to navigate this period of transition extremely well. I am confident because we have the deepest bench of combat experienced leaders our Army has ever known… and I am confident that our Army's leaders… of all ranks… will pass on the lessons of the last 14 years of war, and instill the Army Values in the next generation of our Warriors. Led by empowered leaders at every echelon, the Army will continue to deliver mission-tailored forces in support of joint, inter-organizational, and multinational teams to shape security environments, prevent conflict and yes… when called upon… win our Nation's wars.

So… we are counting on you… the finest Non-Commissioned Officers in the world… to lead our Army into the future… to develop our Soldiers to thrive in an uncertain world… and to reinforce a culture of dignity and respect for all. Take pride in our profession, train the next generation of Warriors, and exemplify to our Nation what it means to be a Trusted Professional.

Congratulations, God Bless you, and Army Strong!