HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The Army's senior logistician urged nearly 200 cadets to be competent, committed and of high character at AUSA's culminating event, March 15.

Gen. Gus Perna, Army Materiel Command's commander, closed out the 2017 AUSA Global Force Symposium sharing words of wisdom at the AUSA ROTC luncheon with cadets from more than ten local high schools and two universities.

Perna called his journey to ROTC "divine intervention or maybe pure luck." After an unsuccessful semester at one school and realizing he would not play professional football, he ran into a friend enrolled at Valley Forge.

"I took the test and I got in," said Perna. "And it changed my life."

Today, as a four-star general, Perna leads an organization with a presence or impact in all 50 states and 144 countries and nearly 120,000 Soldiers, civilians and contractors supporting the warfighter around the world.

Perna reminded the young cadets of the numerous career paths ahead of them.

"You don't have to join the military full time," said Perna. "You could grow up to be a Supreme Court judge; you could grow up to own Walmart or you could grow up to be a four-star general."

Justice Sam Alito and Sam Walton are both products of ROTC programs.

"Your destiny is in front of you," said Perna. "What ROTC does whether you are a junior or a senior is to provide you opportunity."

Perna left the students with three important traits, which he visualizes as a triangle that must be equal at all times to be successful professionally. Those traits were: competence, commitment and character.

"At no time can you sacrifice one for the other. You must always be competent; you must always be committed; and you must always be of high character," said Perna. "If you are going to be in our Army or a senior leader in our community, these three things are unyielding to one another."

Competence, he said, in the profession is critical.

"We are responsible for training Soldiers and sending them to combat," said Perna.

In regards to commitment, Perna reminded the audience of how all Soldiers take the oath.

"Our responsibility, when we raise our hand and swear our oath to the Constitution of the United States, is about defending what we believe against all enemies foreign and domestic," said Perna. "There is no option there. It is a commitment -- a commitment to your team and commitment to your country."

And lastly, he stressed the importance of character.

"At all times your character must be beyond reproach," said Perna. "In our profession, the responsibility that we have to our Soldiers and country requires 100 percent character -- all the time."

In closing, Perna encouraged the cadets.

"You will do well, if you put your mind to it," he said. "You will do well, because the leaders that are here today sitting at your table willing to spend time with you. You will do well, because of the great organizations that will bring us together to teach each other. You will do well, because you want to make your parents proud and you want to take care of your future families. I have a lot of confidence in what our Army will be in 10 to 20 years from now and that's because of you."

Perna also individually acknowledged Lt. Col. David Wood, the Professor of Military Science at Jacksonville State University.

Wood, who was a captain at the time, served as Perna's battalion S3 or operations officer, when Perna commanded the deployed battalion in 2003.

"This leader led my formation into the invasion with the advance party. He planned it and executed it. We lost one vehicle and no Soldiers, and it is a direct reflection of this officer," said Perna.

The ROTC program was founded by President Woodrow Wilson 101 years ago. The institution has produced more than 650,000 officers.

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