FORT COLLINS, Colorado -- "Be ready for anything and never say no to an opportunity." That was the message from the senior Army air defender to Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets from his alma mater.

Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, addressed more than 80 Colorado State University ROTC cadets April 7 and shared his perspective.

"This is a great time in your life in terms of being a cadet here," Dickinson said. "I would encourage you to leverage the opportunities you have here at Colorado State. The program here has grown both in quality and in quantity and that is a very positive thing."

Dickinson, who graduated in the CSU class of 1985, spoke to the cadets about preparedness as they begin their military careers.

"Take every opportunity you can to enjoy being in college, and take advantage of the programs and opportunities you have within the ROTC program," he added. "I would encourage you to do well in school here because grades matter. Good students are generally disciplined individuals, and the Army is looking for disciplined officers who can balance many different things."

During his time with the cadets, Dickinson explained what he does as the USASMDC/ARSTRAT commander and what the command does in defense of the nation. He explained how SMDC has varied mission capabilities in space and missile defense.

Dickinson is responsible for leading SMDC which serves as the Army service component command to U.S. Strategic Command and conducts space and missile defense operations and provides planning, integration, control and coordination of Army forces and capabilities in support of strategic deterrence, integrated missile defense, space operations and cyberspace operations.

"When you look at your future going into the Army, you are going to find yourself in positions of leadership and then you are going to find yourself where you will be in a spot that is very strategic for our country," Dickinson said.

He also stressed the importance of education and what it means to continually grow personally and professionally.

"Develop yourself into a continual learner," Dickinson said. "Continue to learn even after you are out of school. You have to get into a battle rhythm on how you can continue that with either reading or writing, or a combination thereof. The Army expects people to continue the learning process throughout their careers."

He then discussed the importance of being mentally and physically tough.

"One of the most powerful things you can do when you show up to your first duty station as a second lieutenant is to be in shape," Dickinson said. "It establishes instant credibility with your Soldiers, and demonstrates physical toughness. The other thing is being there with your Soldiers when the situation is the toughest. You need to be right there next to them, wherever that may be. If it is in a combat zone, it is in a combat zone; if it is in the motor pool at 1800 on Saturday night because you can't pass an inspection, that is where you need to be.

"Never quit," he added. "You have to prepare for that mental piece in everything you do. Ask yourself, 'is there one more thing I can do so that I am successful? Or more importantly, is there one more thing I can do to make my unit successful?'"

Stepping into the ranks of an officer, he reminded them that others will depend on their integrity.

"You will be challenged every day with ethical situations," Dickinson said. "At the end of the day, your ethical conduct should never be in question. And you know who it should never be in question to? You."

Before leaving, the general took questions from the cadets and as he made his closing remarks, Dickinson talked about how the Army is a way of life and a life worth living.

"The Army is about people," he added. "The Army takes care of its own, and it takes care of its family."