FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- More than a hundred Soldiers, civilian employees and family members attended the Fort Rucker National Day of Prayer Breakfast May 5 at The Landing.
Brig. Gen. Stanley E. Budraitis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker deputy commanding general, opened the event before various prayers were offered and guest speaker retired Chaplain (Col.) Robert “Bobby” Whitlock put a challenge to those in attendance.
“We ask God’s blessing on the mission here at Fort Rucker to train tomorrow’s aviation warfighters and leaders, and also on our men and women now serving in harm’s way around the world in defense of freedom and their families,” Budraitis said. “We also remember today to ask for God’s guidance for our leaders in the Wiregrass community, at Fort Rucker, and for our president and other national leaders as they make difficult decisions about the future of our country.”
Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Kennis then offered the invocation and Marge Simmons sang the national anthem. Chaplain (Maj.) Marty Schubert offered a prayer for the nation; Col. Whitney B. Gardner, USAACE chief of staff, offered a prayer for the U.S. military; and Chaplain (Capt.) Victor Matos offered a prayer for Fort Rucker.
Chaplain (Capt.) Mickey Basham read a scripture and then Chaplain (Col.) Robert J. Crowley introduced Whitlock as the guest speaker.
Whitlock began by issuing a challenge to the attendees.
“I am going to challenge the leaders that are in this room. I think there is something in our military in general, but the Army specifically because the Army is the branch that I know having spent 34 years in uniform,” he said. “I love our Army, I am a Soldier for life, so I still count myself among your ranks. But as proud as I am of our force, and all that you and so many others in the force have done for our nation, I believe we’re still missing something critical.
“With all of our training, all of our knowledge, all of our dedication, all of the appreciation of a grateful nation and all of the love of our families, we are still losing quality Soldiers to alcohol, drugs, divorce, risky behavior, horrible decisions and suicide,” he said.
“We’ve built an impressive organization with an impressive record of success, we’ve built the most lethal and most flexible force on the plant,” Whitlock continued. “We’ve taken raw recruits, boys and girls, turned them into men and women, transformed them into warriors who know all about the warrior ethos and they can spit out the Army Values by heart. We’ve built an extraordinarily successful force and we stand Army Strong.
“But here's a question. What are we standing on? What do we believe, what do you believe? And what do you with that belief? No matter what you build, it cannot stand for long if it is not built on a solid foundation,” he said. “As leaders, we do our best to give our Soldiers and their families everything they need to be the best they can be – to survive the rigors of military life.
“What are we as leaders not offering them? I think it’s a firm foundation,” Whitlock said. “Every structure needs a foundation – something solid on which to stand. If the foundation is weak, then the structure will fail.
“So what do I believe we’re missing? What have we as leaders failed to provide to our Soldiers and families? A foundation of faith,” he said. “And by faith I mean belief grounded in reality. The confidence that you know the truth and in that knowledge you are set free. The understanding that right and wrong, good and evil, are not just individual concepts but are objective realities that can be identified, understood, integrated, confronted and defeated in our day-to-day lives.
“You might be thinking, ‘Chaplain, that’s what the Army Values are for.’ I will tell you I do not believe the Army Values are the foundation. I believe the Army Values are the form of the foundation. They’re the things that you pour the concrete into.
“What’s the concrete? I think the concrete is you. It’s what you believe, leaders. It’s what you live and practice every day in front of your formations, in your homes, in your communities, and when nobody else is watching. It’s the very core of who you are,” Whitlock said. “It’s what motivates you to lead and that which causes you to serve in this station. It is your belief system, your understanding of right and wrong, it is the priorities you demonstrate.
“The example you set it is your core beliefs that steer you through life and anchor you in times of distress. The concrete is you,” he added.
“And yet, we’re so risk adverse that we go, ‘I don’t want to force my beliefs on anybody,’” Whitlock added. “I’m not asking you to do that – I want you to pour yourself into their lives, help them build a foundation that will not fail. Many of those we lead are drifting, they need a foundation, an anchor that keeps them secure in a world of constant change.
“I’m asking you to share those things that have made you a successful leader,” he said. “What is it that you stand on, what gets you through the hard times? If it’s good enough for you, then it’s good enough to give away. If it’s not good enough to give away, then why are you standing on it?
“Great leaders make great investments. The really great ones did something amazing – they changed me, they poured themselves into my life and by doing so made me a better man, a better chaplain, a better Soldier,” Whitlock said. “They imprinted their core beliefs on me – not because they forced me to believe what they believed, but because they demonstrated what those beliefs did for them.
“I am convinced that this is what leaders do. I won’t lie to you, this is hard work, it takes significant effort, it takes personal investment, and there is risk involved,” he added. “In today’s overly sensitive and politically charged environment, there will be those who accuse you of forcing your faith on others and being too confident or too opinionated.
“Again, I’m not asking you to force anything,” Whitlock said. “I’m asking you to give yourself away. I’m asking you to stand for those things that you know are right, and to teach them to those placed under your guard, show them who you are, share with them the beliefs and understandings of life that make you, you.
“Give away your core values. Pour yourself into their lives and change them for the better. Do all of this knowing that God is able to deliver you, but if not, do it anyway because you know it’s the right thing to do,” he said.