The 17th Commanding General of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command Gen. Paul E. Funk II toured Fort Jackson Aug. 29.

Funk assumed command of TRADOC earlier this year and got a behind the scenes look at what is involved with transforming America's sons and daughters into the nation's most lethal fighting force.

"My name is Funk and I am an American Soldier," Funk said to the crowd gathered on Hilton Field. "It's great to be here."

Born at Fort Hood, Texas, Funk was born into the military lifestyle. He graduated Fort Knox High School and commissioned as an armor officer through the Montana State University's Reserve Officer Training Program. He has served as a commander at all levels from the company to corps level. After taking command of TRADOC, Funk began touring Basic Combat Training sites to observe the training of future Soldiers he now is responsible for.

Throughout his tour, Funk spoke with trainees about military life beyond BCT and Advanced Individual Training, building trust with fellow Soldiers and subordinates, and taking care of themselves and their fellow Soldier. He answered questions from the trainees about possible future deployments they may face, advice on how to advance their military careers and the expectations of Soldiers in their leaders.

He was accompanied on his tour by former Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia, the only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Iraq war.

Trainees and their Families were treated to a special guest during the 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment graduation ceremony where Funk acted as the ceremonies guest speaker. Most Families aren't afforded the opportunity to hear from the four-star general who has direct command over the training of new Soldiers.

"I'm an amazingly proud member of this organization," Funk said. "For over 102 years, Fort Jackson has carried out the sacred responsibility of forging America's Army by transforming America's young volunteers into competent, professional Soldiers."

Funk asked all the veterans in the crowd to stand and be recognized during the ceremony. Funk said that while the installation's motto is "Victory ... Starts here," that victory started with them and continued through their honorable service and the example they have set forth for future generation.

"To the Soldiers that are graduating today, congratulations," Funk said. "You made it. You can be justifiably proud of your accomplishment."

Funk proudly proclaimed the diversity and education of the graduates that included 13 graduates with master's degrees, 27 with bachelor's degrees, 40 with associate degrees and one Soldier who holds a professional artists degree.

"This class includes the richness and diversity that has been the strength of this great nation since the beginning over 243 years ago," he said. "We have always been a nation of immigrants and this class certainly reinforces that point."

Funk issued a promise to the graduating class during the ceremony, as TRADOC commander he promised to maintain a laser focus on preparing the Soldiers to become warriors and to fulfill their oath to defend the constitution against all enemy's, foreign and domestic.

As the speech came to a close, Funk asked of the attendees to spread the word about service. He explained national service to the country, community and each other was the responsibility of each American. Maintaining the freedoms Americans share today is the responsibility of all who enjoy the benefits the country offers through these freedoms.

Closing the speech, Funk thanked all the Families present and U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford "Beags" Beagle, Jr., for allowing him the opportunity to bear witness to the training of future Soldiers and participation in the graduation ceremony.

"Thank you for inviting me to preside over this graduation ceremony and to participate in this important events with so many other outstanding young Soldiers and their Families. I'm proud to be here today with all of you," Funk exclaimed. "Remember, Victory ... Starts here."