By Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the ArmyNovember 3, 2011
General Odierno: Thanks everyone, it is great to be here. Thanks for putting this together and to the entire Washington Chapter for recognizing and encouraging our newest Cadets and Midshipmen. To all the sponsors that are here who choose to help us develop our future leadership, your generosity allows our young people across a wide spectrum of backgrounds to excel. I believe your efforts will pay incredible dividends to our Armed Forces as we go forward. One of the greatest assets of our military, our diversity, is clearly evident today by the group of Cadets and Midshipmen we just recognized. These programs help us to sustain that diversity, so I thank you so much for that.
I also want to thank all the ROTC Cadre that are here today for the great work you do in developing our future leaders, encouraging them, keeping them interested, pushing them, and allowing them to choose the direction that they want to go.
As the Chief of Staff of the Army, I am exposed daily to very difficult challenges. But I take comfort every time I am exposed to our young leaders. This includes our young ROTC leaders, our Cadets at our Service Academies, and our young Soldiers who go on to become Sergeants, Staff Sergeants, and Sergeants First Class. I am bolstered by their qualifications, by their drive, by their values, and by their selfless need to serve. I am absolutely convinced that this generation of young Americans who continue to put their lives on the line for their country is the Next Greatest Generation. These young men and women you saw today will be the leaders of this Next Greatest Generation. No matter how difficult our problems, no matter how complex the world becomes, what will ultimately help us continue to thrive as a nation is our leaders. If you have good leadership, you can solve almost any problem. The development of these young leaders is so important.
I want to reflect on a couple of things: our military's achievements and sacrifices over the past decade, what it means to be a member of the Profession of Arms, and finally, how to succeed as a junior military leader.
As you all know, last month we marked the tenth anniversary of 9/11. We all know that since that day, our military has proven itself in what I would consider to be the most difficult conditions this nation has ever faced. Our leaders at every level displayed unparalleled ingenuity, flexibility, and adaptability. Our Service members have displayed mental and physical toughness and courage under fire. They have transformed our Armed Forces into the most versatile, agile, rapidly deployable, and sustainable strategic force in the world.
These accomplishments came at an enormous cost. More than 6,000 lives lost in Iraq and Afghanistan; more than 40,000 wounded. We will always honor their sacrifice in all that we do. In the Army alone, we've awarded over 14,000 Medals of Valor over the last ten years, including six Medals of Honor and 22 Distinguished Service Crosses. This is the Profession of Arms that we are in today and that you are about to join, which brings with it expectations and responsibilities you will not find anywhere else.
So what does it mean to be in the Profession of Arms? First, it is about selflessness -- becoming part of something bigger than yourselves. We are warriors, not employees. It is not about paychecks. It is about constantly changing and adapting to your environment. It is about becoming students of the world, and always challenging yourselves to be better.
The foundation of our profession and our bedrock is trust. Without trust, we don't have a profession. Trust between Soldiers means having complete faith in the person on your right and left, to your front and to your rear. It means knowing they will be there for you when you need them, and demonstrating that you will be there for them. Trust between Soldiers and their leaders means doing your best to improve yourselves; setting the example; empowering your subordinates; but also sustaining standards and holding people accountable. Trust between Soldiers, their Families, and the Army or any other Service means balancing the necessity of your profession with your family, whomever that might be -- whether it is friends, or spouses or whomever. Our business is a marathon, not a sprint. Families must know that we will take care of them, and we will take care of their Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine. Finally, there is trust between the Army and the American People, which means we will respond and adapt in a way that is morally and ethically right and that reflects the values of our country, no matter the circumstance. They trust us with their sons and daughters; they trust us to lead them in very difficult and complex situations.
Let me talk about leader expectations. As new Lieutenants or Ensigns, you are carrying charters to uphold four things. They are very basic: standards, discipline, and fitness, and constant learning.
Standards. If you come in to reach the pinnacle of technical and tactical proficiency, your Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines will follow suit. If you ignore substandard behavior, you will create a new and lower standard. Standards save lives in the most difficult situations. One of the most difficult things for young leaders is to enforce standards. Enforcing standards is not the most popular thing to do. You must decide how you are going to do that. How do you lead? How do you build morale? By sustaining high standards. How do you hold people accountable? How do you use the Non-Commissioned Officers? Those are the things you face as you move forward. And I challenge you to think about that.
Discipline. Discipline is very basic: doing what is right when nobody else is there watching you. When it's 3:00 in the morning at10,000 feet, at ten degrees below zero, are you going to make the right decision? Are you going to do the right thing in the face of an enemy under fire? Are you disciplined enough to follow the standards that have been established? Are you disciplined enough to lead these men and women who need you to show leadership under fire?
Fitness. In my view, there are five dimensions; physical, emotional, social, family and spiritual. Physical and mental toughness come with a balance across all five dimensions. You must make sure that those underneath you understand those dimensions. What are you doing to ensure they are able to improve themselves as part of your organization? When they improve themselves, they will ultimately improve the organization.
Finally, you can never stop learning. Every day, I make an effort to learn, to improve myself, and to figure out where I can get better. I ask myself, "what do I need to know?" We all need to do this, across a wide variety of topics. It is self-learning. It is institutional learning.
So those are my expectations: standards, discipline, fitness, constant learning. If you take those on and do the best you can, you will be a successful leader in your Service. I challenge you all to do this.
The last thing I'll say is enjoy yourself and have fun. Sometimes we find ourselves in positions that are difficult to make fun. But in this organization, you have to learn the joys of camaraderie. It is about people. It is about understanding each other. It is about helping each other through difficult times. Sometimes you will encounter setbacks, and sometimes they will be painful and embarrassing. We've all done that as young leaders. But it is about your resiliency; it is about how you react to these circumstances that people look at and watch. You must never forget that wearing a uniform and serving your nation is an honor and a privilege and not a right. I ask you all to think a lot about that. I ask you all to continue to develop yourselves as you become the future leaders in our Armed Forces.
I hope that you enjoy the rest of your time in school. Make the most out of it, but do so with an eye towards strengthening yourself and helping your classmates strengthen themselves. America needs your strength in the future. I want to say just once more how grateful I am of the quality of our young men and women of today. Your drive, your dedication, your attempt to make yourself better -- thank you for that. The challenges that we face in the future will require new thinking, new ideas. I challenge you to be a part of this. That is why this scholarship drive is so important -- recognizing young leaders and giving them the opportunity to continue excel as individuals and as leaders. So I want to thank this organization for what they do, for your dedication in bringing this program to fruition. There is nothing more important in our country than our youth. There is nothing more important than providing them opportunities to develop. That is the strength of our nation -- our young people. They are our future, and we hopefully will allow them and give them something to take forward in such a way that this remains the greatest country in the world.
Thank you so much for being here today. Thank you for your generosity, and may God Bless America. Thank you so much.