ASHLAND, Ky. – Surrounded by an audience of more than 900 students, eight future Soldiers took their oath of enlistment, Oct. 20 in the Paul G. Blazer High School gym.
The eight raised their right hands and restated the oath, administered by Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commanding general of U.S Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
“This is one of the most solemn responsibilities and privileges I get - to bring people into the Army,” Karbler said.
Today’s Army has more than 200 ways to serve as a Soldier including careers in engineering, medical, space, cybersecurity, combat forces, and even as an astronaut, Karbler said.
“Do you want to be a linguist, an infantryman, to jump out of airplanes, to build stuff, to be a nuclear engineer, to shoot artillery rounds, be a doctor, work on computers - we have every job that you might want to do,” he said.
Karbler, a graduate of the U.S. Army Military Academy West Point, was in town to participate as a keynote speaker at the Cosmic Holler Film Festival. He talked to the students and future Soldiers about the Army’s slogan, “Be All You Can Be,” and explained how that slogan represents the possibilities that await new recruits.
Karbler’s own story speaks to the possibilities available with Army service.
“Forty-three years ago, I sat on bleachers like this and had no idea that I was going to ever come in the Army,” he said. “I didn’t even know what was for lunch.”
Karbler, who grew up in a small Wisconsin town, had no exposure to the military. His parents had paid for his two older sisters to attend college and he knew he didn’t want to ask them to pay for his education, so he started looking for free options, one of which was West Point.
“Free application, guaranteed a job if you graduate, get to serve your country – I thought it sounded like a pretty good deal, and you only had to serve five years and your commitment was up,” he said. “I got accepted my senior year and decided to go to West Point to be all I could be in the Army.”
More than 40 years later, Karbler continues to serve. He said the Army taught him what he could be, but more importantly, who he could be.
“The Army teaches you about dignity and respect; it teaches you about honor and integrity and leadership … the Army will teach you how to be a good person,” he said.
Karbler demonstrated that philosophy through what he called his “Ethical Midfield” principle. He asked the students to pay close attention to the out-of-bounds lines on the court in the gym. Calling on the school’s quarterback, LaBryant Strader , Karbler stood near the yellow boundary line and had Strader pass him the football.
“Am I in bounds or out of bounds?” Karbler asked.
Students seated near the out-of-bounds line could see where he stood. Those on the other side of the gym and farther back could not. Being too close to either side made it difficult to see whether he was in or out of bounds, and to see his position.
“If you’re not in the middle (of the space), if you’re not in the ethical midfield, if you’re too close to one side or the other, you’ll be called into question about where you stand and who you are as a person,” Karbler said.
“You want to make sure you walk the straight and narrow and don’t deviate side to side,” he said. “Stay in the middle; the Army taught me that.”
Karbler told the students that life will bring adversity, and they must choose how they respond. He modeled those situations by pouring water on sand, pebbles and a brick. The water represented adversity in life.
He asked students to consider how they would respond when life gets hard. Would they fall apart and flatten like the sand, move like the pebbles, or stay solid like the brick?
“Forty years in the Army gave me a moral and ethical foundation that whenever something bad happens, whenever life throws something tough, I’m able to deal with it,” he said.
Karbler challenged the students, just like the future Soldiers, to consider a career in the Army.
“When you think ‘what am I going to do in the future,’ think about the Army, think about service to your country, because you can ‘Be All You Can Be,’” he said.
Karbler closed out the visit by speaking with the JROTC cadets.
Don’t regret not taking advantage of available opportunities, he said.
“The best advice I got when I was in high school – if you think you want to do it, then go do it. You don’t want to have regret,” Karbler said. “You will not be disappointed. Opportunities you can’t even imagine will be available to you.