By Mr. Michael Maddox (ROTC)February 25, 2016
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (Feb. 24, 2016) -- The more than 300 Army Cadets who attended the George C. Marshall Awards and Leadership Seminar Feb. 22-24 were privileged to be mentored by their leadership -- from Cadet Command leadership to current and former top leadership of the Army.
Maj. Gen. Peggy Combs, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command, kicked off the three-day event by sharing her expectations and advice for the Cadets who will soon be leading Soldiers.
"Although the future is unknown and unknowable, we do know several things. We know that the United States of America, the world's best democracy will be involved in conflict in the future. We know that in order to win that conflict, we must have Soldiers with boots on the ground," she said. "Now what we don't know is what those boots might look like. We may have technology that will allow our Soldiers to do things we have never seen or even imagined. In order for those Soldiers to win, they must be led by leaders that can outthink an enemy we have not even seen before."
She went on to say she has full confidence in the future leaders of the Army.
"By the time you leave (the conference), we want to you to have a perspective of the complexities of 2020 to 2040. You will be those leaders. A few years from now, us senior leaders are probably going to take off our boots, and I am going to think about our Army and our nation. I'm going to know that it's in good hands because it's going to be lead by leaders like you," said Combs.
Gen. David Perkins, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, also complimented the Cadets on being chosen to attend the seminar.
"Congratulations for being selected to come here and take part in this - it's a great way to start off your military career by being selected amongst your peers as someone who has not only met the standard but exceeded it," he said.
With that said, Perkins reminded the Cadets that they are just at the beginning of their journey as leaders, and they will need to be able to adapt to be successful in the future.
"If you look at General Marshall's biography, it's actually pretty enlightening as in regards as what we want you to be able to do when we commission you. You're not going to be commissioned directly as the Chief of Staff of the Army, or Secretary of State, or Secretary of Defense, but some of you may get there eventually," he said. "So if you take a look at his career, he went from a horse-drawn Army to a nuclear powered Army, that's a pretty dramatic shift. That's an example of why as we prepare you to be commissioned and to be leaders, we can't give you a checklist for everything.
"How long of a checklist would General Marshall have needed that went from when he graduated with horse drawn artillery to nuclear weapons?" Perkins asked the crowd. "There is no way we can train you for everything that is going to come your way, but there's a difference between being trained and well prepared. We can't train you for everything, but we can prepare you for just about anything. My experience with most leaders, when called upon, are actually much better prepared than they think they are."
Perkins encouraged the Cadets to use the tools they will have available to them once commissioned -- including learning from their fellow Soldiers.
"We give you a platoon sergeant and non-commissioned officers because you're brand new, and what we expect is that you are prepared enough to listen to them, that you are prepared enough to understand the role they play, the role of the NCO," he said. "You might not know everything the NCO does, but in your preparation you know they're the backbone of the Army. That's the difference between being prepared and perfectly trained. If you show up and you don't listen to you NCOs, if you show up acting like you know everything that we know you don't, that will show that you are not prepared to be a leader."
"Soldiers want to know if you are prepared to put your unit before yourself. Are you prepared to lead from the front? Are you prepared to learn?" he added.
When Gen. Robert Abrams, Commanding General of U.S. Army Forces Command, addressed the Cadets, he explained what he feels are key to being a successful leader.
"A Soldier has two expectations of you. One is you need to be a leader of character -- that's the centerpiece of who we are as Soldiers and officers. Do what's right every single time. Never walk by something that is not up to standard -- the moment that you do, you just set a new low standard,' said Abrams. "Your integrity, in my opinion, that's ranked number one. The great thing about your integrity is that no one can take that away from you -- only you can give it away. And if you do give it away, it's almost impossible to get it back."
Abrams said another thing Soldiers expect is for a leader to know their job.
"You're not going to know your job right away -- that means you have to work, you have to work extra hours, you have to study, you have to listen to your noncommissioned officers, you're going to have to put in the effort to know your job," he said.
He said the final ingredient to being a great leader is to "take care of Soldiers one at a time."
"The best thing you can do is provide tough, realistic training, constantly. Push them to their physical limits and ensure they are proficient in all of the arms in your platoon," Abrams said. "Make sure they understand the value of teamwork.
"Challenge and push them -- that's the most important thing you can do take care of Soldiers," he added. "Also, take time to get to know them one Soldier at a time. When you make that investment, a Soldier will follow you anywhere, do anything you ask regardless of the conditions."