Returning to his roots as an ROTC graduate, Gen. Gus Perna participated in three commissioning ceremonies to swear-in the next generation of Army officers.

At the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Rutgers University in New Jersey, Perna told the graduating cadets to do more than memorize and utter the words of the oath of office they would take.

"Learn the meaning of the words, understand them, and gain a deeper appreciation for them," he said. "You will bear the burden of responsibility for this oath. There will be times when you will question your responsibility, and you will reflect back on this day."

Perna, head of Army Materiel Command and a Distinguished Military Graduate from Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania, told the graduating cadets that the oath of office is rooted in history. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln revised the oath to include the sentence, "I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion."

"He wanted officers and Soldiers to be confident in their duties, committed to their responsibilities, and of the highest character," Perna said. "Anything less than being completely confident, committed and of high character is not what our Army needs."

Perna also honed in on selfless service.

"As long as you wear the uniform of a United States Army officer, you must always think bigger than yourself and bigger than your unit," he said. "It is no longer about you. It is about being a part of something bigger than you can imagine."

The new second lieutenants join thousands of men and women over the last hundred-plus years to receive their commission through ROTC. Today, the ROTC program brings in more than 70 percent of the Army's officers.

"ROTC instilled in me standards and discipline, helped me mature, and taught me to see the bigger purpose," Perna said. "Commissioning these young officers is special and excites me about what the future will be, because these young men and women represent our future."