WASHINGTON — On Feb. 2, current and retired general officers, including Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9 (Installations) Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, met to discuss career considerations facing commissioned officers at a Howard University event.
An audience of several hundred members, including ROTC cadets from Howard University and other programs, along with JROTC cadets from as far as Richmond, Virginia, asked questions of the 10 panelists, moderated by retired Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison.
An NCO about to become a commissioned officer through the “Green to Gold” program asked for insights from the panel.
“You are in a great position because you bring experience from both your time as an NCO and now in preparation (through ROTC) for a career as a commissioned officer,” Vereen said.
He advised the NCO to be the example for all the other new lieutenants and to be a team player.
“One of the biggest things as a commander is [we] look to you to provide coaching, mentoring and counseling to your peers, those fellow lieutenants,” Vereen said. “It’s not about you; it’s about how you build the rest of your team.”
He also urged the NCO and other future officers to remain directly engaged with their NCOs after commissioning. “Don’t think that because you’re an officer, you cannot integrate and communicate with those you lead in both a professional setting but also in social settings.
“There’re things that lieutenants are expected to do, that officers are expected to do, that NCOs are expected to do — but don’t ever lose the fact that you have grown up through the same sort of career path that those NCOs have. They have critical insights which will enhance your ability to lead effectively. Maintain and protect that relationship,” Vereen said.
One cadet asked the panel how to respond when coworkers engage in inappropriate conversation. Vereen reminded the cadets everyone in the room shares a responsibility to speak up.
“When you see this happening, you have an obligation to do something as well. You just don’t sit on the sidelines,” he said.
Leadership means coming forward to help ensure the Army fosters a culture where everyone feels empowered, Vereen said. “Everybody’s important in the Army, and we want everybody to stay on the team. All persons should be treated with dignity and respect. Always.”
At the personal level, one of the most important teams is the Soldier and his or her spouse, Vereen noted, responding to a question about balancing family life with the sacrifices required by a military career.
“You have to respect our Army spouses' desire to have a career,” he said.
“We try to balance our desire to serve in the Army and do all the great things that the Army asks us to do — but I will also tell you, make sure that you consider your spouse," Vereen said.
"At the end of the day, after our service in uniform is complete, we want to make sure our families are intact.”
One way G-9 aids in that effort is through Soldier and Family Readiness programs. These important Quality of Life programs include efforts to help Army spouses maintain employment in new locations through things like the portability of professional or trade licenses across state lines, and connections through Army programs that support spouse employment.
The panel comprised 10 general officers, current and retired:
Gen. Gary Brito, commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC); Army Inspector General Lt. Gen. Donna Martin; Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Raymond Dingle; retired Lt. Gen. William E. (Kip) Ward, former commander of U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM); Maj. Gen. Duane Miller, Army provost marshal general; Brig. Gen. Hope Rampy, deputy chief of Army G-1; Maj. Gen. Antonio (Andy) Munera, commanding general of Army Cadet Command; retired Brig. Gen. Lawrence Gillespie, former assistant deputy commanding general of Army Materiel Command; and retired Brig. Gen. Arnold Gordon-Bray, former deputy director of operations for USAFRICOM.
The Senior Leader Development Conference event was in conjunction with the West Point Leadership Ethics and Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (West Point LEADS).
Howard University, a historically Black private research university blocks from the U.S. Capitol and the White House, has graduated many notable Army alumni, including:
- Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the Army’s first Black general officer
- Maj. Gen. Frederic E. Davison, the Army’s first Black major general and division commander and a graduate of the Howard ROTC Program
- Hon. Togo West, former Secretary of the Army and Veterans Affairs Secretary
Learn more about Black Americans’ service in the Army.
Current undergraduate students can find out more about Army ROTC online or by visiting their institution’s ROTC office.