U.S. Representative Scott Perry, retired Army Brigadier General, is a graduate of the U.S. Army War College. Today, on the Army Birthday, he reminisced about his war college experience and the power of the war college education, soon to be matched with a long-awaited modern academic facility.
“It will be the standard all around the world and people will not only want to come here for the course, they’ll fight – you fight to get into the war college and as soon as you get in you wonder what you did to yourself,” Perry said with a smile. “But before that you fight to get in – and you want to come to a first-class facility and know that your country is maintaining the standard and is setting the standard.”
Army Birthday links 245 years past and Army, Joint Force leadership of future generations
“We intentionally chose the 14th of June for today’s ceremony because it is the Army Birthday,” said USAWC Commandant Maj. Gen. John Kem who officiated at the double ground-breaking and cake-cutting ceremony. “245 years ago when the Continental Army formed out of the militias in Boston, George Washington had not joined them yet. He was on his way up from Mount Vernon … and he was in support of a fledgling nation that they called, ‘These United States’,” he said.
“I have been honored to work with and know literally thousands of Soldiers,” said Kem, referring to his 35-year Army career. “Soldiers whose contributions reflect American values … Soldiers, family members, civilians, veterans and retirees who don’t need aa uniform ... to reflect the Army values – leadership, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.
“The world is a challenging place … always has been…. On this date, the Army Birthday – In 1815, it was the start of Napoleon’s Waterloo Campaign…. In 1864, this is the date that Congress ordered that Black Union Soldiers be paid the same as white Soldiers. This is the day that Gen. Pershing and his staff first arrived in France to start the Army Expeditionary Forces’ efforts in World War I. In 1940, this is the day the Nazis opened Auschwitz, and also the day they occupied Paris. In 1944, this is the day of the first B29 raid on Japan – and the Normandy invasion was stalled just off the beaches,” he recounted.
“And today?” he asked rhetorically. “On this 245th birthday, we have Soldiers deployed and serving overseas. We all know about Iraq to Afghanistan but there are Soldiers in about 130 other countries around the world at any given time.
“Here at home, we have seen military medical personnel on the front lines -- National Guard, Reserve and Active [Army] -- supporting healthcare workers across the nation,” said Kem. “We have seen Army personnel assisting FEMA and local officials in lots of places in defense against the assault of coronavirus. And, Army labs are on the cutting edge of vaccine research.
“This year Flag Day and the Army Birthday occur during a sobering time for our nation. Selfless service respect, honor and courage are every bit as important in supporting our nation here at home – in supporting our fellow citizens and our oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
“As General Washington said in late June 1775, on his way to join the Continental Army, h wrote a letter to the New York assembly passing through New York to take command in Boston: ‘When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.’ He was recognizing that even though you serve in the military, you are a citizen and will return to that. His words and our Army history – both the good and the not-so-good – remind us of our past and help shape us the future,” said Kem.
Shaping the future is why we’re here today
“This groundbreaking – on this day – at the nation’s U.S Army War College, the largest of all the war colleges, reminds us that what is at stake is far more than a building, far more than a set of classrooms and auditoriums,” said Kem. “It’s going to be amazing … but the building is just a small part of what the institution is about.
“This academic building that Congress and the Administration has supported is an investment in the Army and the nation’s future.
“Today we start construction on a building, but, it’s really about a continuing idea and sense of purpose for an uncertain future, but one with a tremendous promise.
“This is why this building is so important. It is a key to learning, a key to connections, a key to collaboration and a key to the future leadership of the Army, the Joint Force, our international students and our international partners.”
Manhattan Construction president echoed the Army values theme to relate his company’s commitment.
“It is a privilege to serve the institution whose servicemembers embody the values of leadership, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage and it is our honor to build this facility … and deliver what we hope will be a first-class facility to resemble and fulfill the mission of the Army War College,” said Manhattan President John Reyhan.
“The building is 201 thousand square feet and will house a 500-seat auditorium, dining facility and multiple classrooms for learning and education. In addition, the building serves a much higher purpose. Through the doors of this facility will pass future leaders and strategic thinkers for advancing knowledge in the global application of landpower.
“We at Manhattan are honored to be a part of the project …. Over the course of the next 33 months, over 250 men and women will engage in the construction of the project. We like to say that building is a team sport…. It takes teamwork to achieve exception safety results….
“Exceptional is a rating that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reserves for contractors who successfully perform multiple significant events that work for the benefit of the client. And in this case, it’s the Army War College. We are grateful for the opportunity to prove ourselves exceptional for this project.
Elected officials characterize College-Community relationship as historically strong.
“Today is the culmination of a long journey. Every year, elected officials, such as myself and Congressman Perry, fight to keep the U.S. Army War College in the Carlisle region,” said Scott in a post-ceremony interview. “This is a reaffirmation of how important and strategic this facility is for the community.
“I think it is great that this day was selected for the groundbreaking,” said Congressman Perry in the post-ceremony interview.
“ The Army Birthday, for anybody who has served in the Army, is a very special day,” said Perry. “It is the day of shared memories and shared sacrifices. Your time in uniform is something you are proud of and never forget. Most of that comes from the people you serve with and the singular focus of your mission. This day exemplifies that for me and a lot of other soldiers.
“As a student, there’s a lot of fond memories of the place as it is. You breathe in the nostalgia .. but we have to compete every day and we have to stay relevant,” said Congressman Perry, in a post-ceremony interview. “We recognize that we have to keep pace to stay the premier organization that the U.S. Army War College is.
“This helps to continue the great legacy of educating future leaders, strategic leaders right here in our hometown,” said Congressman Perry in a post-ceremony interview. “We are looking forward to the time when we upgrade things and we move those classroom facilities into 21st century learning. That has to happen in order for us to stay relevant.”
“It means sustainability, said Mayor Scott after the ceremony. “This facility will stay relevant to the Army’s mission and jobs will stay here. And the overall community will benefit from the … influx of people who come to the U.S. Army War College.
“As a high school student, I always enjoyed the students who came to visit from the War College,” said Scott. “The families from the college that choose to retire here become members of the Carlisle community, joining our non-profits, our boards, and commissions to add that unique voice.”
“I felt like it was a good place to work because of the integrity,” said Martha Thomas, who is both Scott’s mother and a retired Carlisle Barracks employee. “Some of its values … permeate throughout the greater Carlisle community.”
Army War College physical locations past and future
The U.S. Army War College was established in 1901 by Secretary of War Elihu Root. The first academic building was constructed in early 1900s on the site of Fort McNair. President Roosevelt set the cornerstone. After closing for several World War II years, and an interim year at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Army leadership chose to position the U.S. Army War College in 1951 at Carlisle Barracks – itself a historic installation dating to 1757 in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The current academic building, Root Hall, was built in the 1960s. The speaker for the Root Hall ribbon-cutting was Brig. Gen. U.S. Grant, grandson of President Grant and son-in-law of Elihu Root.
The new building will further enable the Army War College mission: To enhance national and global security by developing ideas and educating US and international leaders to serve and lead at the strategic level. It will be co-located with Collins Hall -- center of experiential learning, wargaming and emerging issues – engendering new ways to collaborate across the College and with prominent external leaders, researchers and experts.
“We are so excited for this,” said Perry. “It’s going to be a shining example of what America can do.
“The War Colleges has its own mystique, which is important, but we don’t want it to impair the collaborative efforts between policy makers and future military leaders. That has to come together and this is the place to do that. It is an honor to come back as an elected official and a graduate and put those things together – strategic leadership on the civilian side together with our leadership on the military side,” said Perry.
“The world is watching what we do right here in Carlisle … This is a testimony to the fact that we do it right, here, and we’re going to continue to do it right, here,” he said.
“If we’ve designed it right, and it’s flexible enough, and Manhattan Construction and the Corps of Engineers do it right, it will … go for 100 years, we hope,” said Kem.