WEST POINT, N.Y. (July 19, 2010) -- Despite the morning's rainfall, Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr. described it as a beautiful day as he became the 58th Superintendent at West Point.

"For so many, this historic place has marked the start of our journey and service to the U.S. Army and to the nation," Huntoon said. "To return here four decades after my own swearing in ceremony as a new cadet is deeply moving and profoundly inspiring. I'm recommitted to that oath and recommitted to the values of this institution."

The Class of 1973 graduate returns to the U.S Military Academy after serving as director of the Army Staff at the Pentagon, under Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff. He has commanded at every level from company through regiment, served as deputy director of plans with the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., and commandant of the Army War College.

Casey noted that like his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Buster Hagenbeck, Huntoon's broad and enriching military career uniquely qualifies him to lead the Army's premier leadership institute.

"I can think of no one who is more qualified to lead this installation," Casey said.

West Point has long been the academic stomping grounds of many future military leaders from Gen. Douglas MacArthur to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and presidents such as Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Likewise, when Huntoon graduated from West Point, the rising class of senior cadets included Gen. David Petraeus (Class of 1974), now commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, while the newest crop of cadets to enter as the Class of 1976 included Gen. Ray Odierno, commanding general of U.S. Joint Forces Command.

Huntoon will command the efforts of the faculty and staff to continually assess and improve the Cadet Leader Development System. This training methodology provides for sequential and progressive development in three complementary programs -- academic, military and physical -- in a moral-ethical environment that promotes exemplary character, according to academy officials.

"We will continue to sustain the enduring excellence of the U.S. Military Academy, while adapting to the needs of the Army in time of war," Huntoon said.

He noted the West Point Cemetery just a mile down the road as a reminder of the sacrifices West Point graduates have made in service to their country.

"Their sacrifice is of the highest honor for they have underwritten the costs of liberty for us all," Huntoon said. "I pledge we will continue to do all that is necessary to prepare our cadets for this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous contemporary operational environment."

The academy's mission remains constant -- to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the United States Army.

"There is a direct line between that mission and the Soldiers who count on us in peace and war to set the right azimuth and then to lead from the front," Huntoon said. "We must always be guided by a professional military ethic that strings naturally from both our motto and the values of our Army."

A reception followed the change of command ceremony and, just prior, Huntoon spent several minutes with the media to elaborate on what it means for him to return to West Point.

"West Point defines excellence," Huntoon said. "It's the quality of our cadets ... the best and brightest young men and women who are leaders before they even get here. We have the opportunity to shape them in four years so they are truly leaders of character when they graduate."

He mentioned his son, a member of the Class of 2011 who was unable to attend the event because he was finishing a summer of military training that included going to Japan and the United Kingdom with Army aviation units and is currently in Scotland on field maneuvers.

"I think this (his son's experiences) exemplifies the great opportunities in summer training afforded to the Corps of Cadets," Huntoon said.

More than half the cadets in the Classes of 2011, 2012 and 2013 have the opportunity to spend a portion of their summer training at military installations throughout the world, working with international non-governmental organizations, interning with civilian industry or many other training opportunities, as well as leading other cadets through Cadet Basic Training and Cadet Field Training at West Point.

Relocated from Trophy Point to an indoor ceremony inside Eisenhower Hall's Crest Hall, the day's events also included Hagenbeck's retirement after serving nearly 40 years in the Army.

Under Hagenbeck's direction, the academy was ranked the "Top College in the Country" by Forbes in 2009 and "Top Public Liberal Arts College" by US News & World Report; achieved more than 24 national championships in athletics and earned 28 competitive scholarships to include Rhodes, Truman, Rotary and Fulbright.