By Brandon OConnorFebruary 7, 2020
The U.S. Military Academy Class of 2022 held Yearling Winter Weekend Friday to celebrate what they have accomplished thus far and look ahead to the rest of their 47-month West Point experience.
Gen. Michael X. Garrett, commander of Army Forces Command, was the evening's guest speaker. He spoke to cadets about the lessons of leadership he learned from his father, a retired master sergeant.
It was his dad, he said, who taught him to never expect subordinates to do what you are not capable of doing, to lead from the front and the importance of never walking past trash. He said he learned the lessons at a young age and has carried them through his 35-year career as an Army officer.
"When I talk about not walking over trash, I mean it," Garrett said. "I can't do it. I can't do it literally and I can't do it figuratively. If I see something that is wrong, it could be as simple as a uniform violation or it could be something bigger, I cannot walk by and let it go. If I see or become aware of it, I have to fix it and I encourage you to do the same."
Garrett called on Class of 2022 cadets to hold themselves and their peers to high standards. The commitment to standards is important, he said, because after commissioning, Army officers will be expected to lead from day one.
That proved true in early January when Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, based at Fort Bragg in North Carolina along with Forces Command, deployed to the Middle East with no notice.
Among the officers who deployed were young West Point graduates, and it was their commitment to standards and self-discipline that enabled them to deploy with no forewarning, Garrett said.
"As leaders, you must have the discipline to follow and to enforce standards," Garrett said. "Get the little things right, set the example, hold others accountable and build trust in your organizations."
As those young officers enter combat for the first time and as the Class of 2022 prepares to follow them, winning will require a team effort, Garrett said.
That requires setting high standards, but to build a team, officers must also be humble and willing learn, he added. Garrett built upon Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville's people strategy and reminded cadets to care for the Soldiers they lead, while at the same time being tough on them.
"You must generally care for your Soldiers," Garrett said. "They can smell a phony. I'm not saying you should be easy on your Soldiers. Be demanding, seek excellence in all things, enforce standards and train them hard, but care for them. This is what our nation expects, and this is what our Soldiers deserve."
The annual Yearling Winter Weekend is a chance for the third-class cadets at the academy to reflect on their accomplishments and to focus on the rest of their time at West Point.
Their next major step will take place before the start of their cow (junior) year when the members of the Class of 2022 will affirm their commitment to the Army.
"We must continue to fear complacency and tackle any challenge, proving that we truly are the few that defends the many," Class of 2022 Cadet Xavier Williams, the class president, said. "We have experienced a lot these past few years, yet here we are almost halfway there. This is our weekend to remember the obstacles we have crossed, celebrate our achievements and reflect on what it means to be a part of the Class of 2022."
The evening ended with a toast to "The Class of 2022" to which the cadets, their guests and the academy leadership in attendance responded with the class' motto, "For many stand the few."