WASHINGTON (Oct. 9, 2017) -- Reserve Officers' Training Corps Cadets from across the country were in attendance at the AUSA ROTC luncheon held in Washington, D.C. Oct. 9. Along with a meal, they were also provided with words of wisdom from Gen. Gus Perna, commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

After sharing the story of his journey through ROTC at Valley Forge Military Academy, Perna spoke on what he thinks defines a good leader -- pride in the Army profession.

"ROTC was life changing for me. Whether you join the active component force, become a reserve component officer and future citizen leader, you are joining a profession. It's a profession like nobody else understands," he said.

Perna said there are five key characteristics of a profession that Cadets can use to be successful future leaders. The first being honorable service.

"In order to have honorable service, by definition you have to provide a service to your country, to your community, to your family that nobody else can perform. Only you future Soldiers can perform what we do for the country," he said. "Only you will be trained and ready to go fight the nation's wars. Only you can go in and provide relief for natural disasters. It's your profession that's called upon when our rights, our constitution, our way of life is challenged."

He said trust is a benchmark for the Army profession.

"Nobody can do their mission like we do our missions -- we have always been successful, we will always be successful. We are counted on every single day to make sure that the enemy is always playing a home game and never in our country," said Perna. "This is so implicit that every year when Time Magazine does a poll of the most trusted professions in America our military is number one. That is earned trust, that is not paid for, that is not something that is given, we must earn it every day."

Perna took time to reflect on his unit citations, and told the crowd that they represent the heart of esprit de corps to him.

"When you come home from war, this is what you reflect on -- those that you served with, those that you were so scared with while you were out on that battlefield that you knew you could count on them, and they knew they could count on you -- that's esprit de corps," he said.

Another thing that sets Soldiers apart according to Perna is stewardship of the profession.

"We are responsible for self-regulating ourselves. We don't tolerate people being mistreated. We don't tolerate sexual harassment. We don't tolerate people not being treated as equals. We don't tolerate poor morals," he said. "We self-regulate and ought to be proud of that. Do it when you see it, do it when you're in a position of authority, and don't allow others to undermine our great Army.

"We also educate and certify ourselves -- we do this our whole careers. No other profession will bring leaders, NCOs, Soldiers, back to be educated throughout their career. We have to be the most competent people through it all," he added.

Perna rounded out the characteristics of the Army profession be reminding Cadets to always keep the "why" in mind.

"Why are competence and character so important? Why is your commitment so important? Because I will tell you, future leaders, you will be responsible for two main things," Perna explained. "You will be responsible for training and taking care of Soldiers to go into harm's way. Nobody else does that -- you're responsible. You are also responsible for training someone who might have to take somebody else's life in defense of your country. That's why the five characteristics of our profession are so important."

Maj. Gen. Christopher Hughes, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, also spoke during the luncheon, as well as presented a scholarship check to Austen Eberhardt, who is attending Georgetown University.

Hughes reminded the Cadets of one other facet of the Army profession -- education.

"Education is a profession. Army ROTC has a demanding and challenging curriculum that is an enhancement to your career field that makes you exceptional along with your college education. It's an enhancement that makes you better than a regular college student," he said. "You have to understand your mission is to ultimately be entrusted with the lives of the sons and daughters of the very citizens you are charged and sworn to defend as a United States Soldier."

He said providing students an opportunity to gain that education and serve the country has made his job one of the best he's had.

"I have the best job in the United States Army. This is truly the most rewarding and personally challenging things that I've had the opportunity to do in 35 years, and it's because of the young men and women there who have raised their hands and said they want to do something greater than themselves," Hughes said.

The U.S. Army Cadet Command is the largest single source of new officers for the Army, commissioning the majority of the Army's new officers each year through the senior ROTC program.