By Mr. David Wedemeyer (Natick)May 28, 2019
BOSTON, Mass.--Optimism, stamina, love of one's Soldiers, determination, and loyalty.
These were the qualities that Gen. George C. Marshall, general of the Army during World War II, believed distinguished a successful officer from the common pack. Those were the solid qualities that a commander could depend on. Qualities that could make a large organization, such as the United States Army, function effectively. Qualities that could end up being ad hoc to readiness--an important component to our Army.
These were also the themes expressed during the commissioning ceremony for the Charles River Battalion of the Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) held on May 20.
Cadets from Boston University, Brandeis, Bridgewater State, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and the University Massachusetts-Boston, and their families, gathered in Faneuil Hall beneath a grand painting by George P. A. Healy that depicts the 1830 debate during which Massachusetts Sen. Daniel Webster famously said, "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!"
Brig. Gen. Vincent Malone, deputy commanding general of the Combat Capabilities Development Command and senior commander of the Natick Soldier Systems Center, referenced these words during his keynote remarks to the soon-to-be lieutenants and their families.
Malone also mentioned Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and emphasized the closing line that states that "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
The words of Webster and Lincoln, Malone said, remind us that we, as Americans, have a great responsibility to the United States and to the ideals of freedom and liberty.
"And who of us has answered the call to protect and defend those ideals," Malone continued. "These young men and women here today."
The 25 cadets in the Charles River Battalion represent some of this nation's finest who have successfully completed four years of intellectual rigor at some of Massachusetts' most renown educational institutions. Just as they have shown dedication to their respective institutions, so to do those institutions recognize the cadets' commitment to service.
"[Boston University] does make a commitment to this work," said Dr. Douglas A. Sears, vice president and chief of staff for the president of the university. "We are proud to support the ROTC program because we recognize the freedoms we enjoy, particularly academic freedom, that the young people sitting here in front of us will help protect going forward. We make commitments we hope are worthy of the sacrifices they will make."
Many may not know that the root of lieutenant comes from the French for placeholder, as in a placeholder for a more senior officer. However unimpressive the provenance, the men and women who make the commitment to ROTC and to join one of the Army's components, whether active duty, Reserve, or National Guard, are anything but.
In his remarks during the ceremony, Lt. Col. Ben Ferguson, Boston University's professor of military science, said, "Looking at these future lieutenants, who I have had the privilege of knowing since I arrived in August, none of them will be a placeholder. All of them will come into their own quickly as future officers of our Army. I expect great things from the men and women sitting before you here today.
"You are all postured to make a great impact on our Army. The Army chose you and you were selected on the basis of being a scholar, athlete, or leader."
The cadets were left with words of wisdom and advice from the events keynotes, most of which touched on the foundational discipline and education in leadership from the ROTC program. As the cadets transition into the apprenticeship of the profession of arms they will learn quickly the responsibilities they have to those they lead.
"When conditions are difficult, when a command is depressed, and everyone seems pessimistic about the opportunity for success, you as future leaders must be especially cheerful and optimistic," said Ferguson. "You as leaders need to lay aside any thought of your own personal fatigue and display boundless energy. The ability to reach deep within your reserve of personal stamina, and have the perseverance to lift up and inspire exhausted and potentially dispirited Soldiers. That is what General Marshall looked for in his Soldiers and leaders."
Soldiers, volunteers all, are the Army's greatest asset and the cadets commissioned during the ceremony took the place they have earned in the unbroken line of patriots who have come before them. Their oath of office connects them to a line of Soldiers stretching back to the founding of the United States.
Malone emphasized 'united' in his words of advice to the cadets, saying that the nation is strongest when we bring together our unified strengths and when we give our best people every opportunity to serve.
"As you prepare to assume command, don't ever forget that our people are our greatest strength. Recognize the caliber of those you will lead. Remember that our nation's defense rests on being able to find solutions to seemingly impossible problem; never shy away from them. Be courageous enough to accept risk, but be wise enough to know when that risk is a gamble. Take a new course of action when needed and have the confidence to be open to new ideas.
"You are responsible for the lives of your people and the accomplishment of your mission. Balancing this will be one of the most difficult tasks you will face--this is the burden of leadership--but you must succeed."
Throughout a Soldier's Army career he or she will come to learn that character, above all things, is not only a lesson they will continue to learn, but also one that they will teach. The character of the cadets commissioned during the event is credited to the family and friends who sat behind them. When asked that veterans stand and be recognized more than half the room did so. It goes without saying that the cadets had chosen the Army path because they grew up with the stories of service and sacrifice.
Malone, in his address, left the new lieutenants and guests with a final message, "Consider a few words from George Washington: 'Remember that it is the actions, and not the commission, that make the officer, and that there is more expected from him than his title.'
"We are a great nation with great responsibilities and to fulfill these responsibilities we must all stand upon the strength of our character that we share with the world. As you embark on your lives of service know that we are all behind you.
"You are doing one of the noblest things any man or woman can do with their lives. I am proud you. Your country is proud of you. We are proud because you are taking the opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourselves. Your gift to all Americans in this great experiment of democracy is your service and leadership to keeping us safe and keeping us free."