CAGUAS, Puerto Rico (March 30, 2012) -- Emphasizing the importance of diversity and leadership within the U.S. Army, Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal delivered the keynote address to more than 175 cadets during the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras' ROTC ball.
"We say the Army is the strength of the Nation and our Soldiers are the strength of the Army. Strength in this case is more than just the projection of combat power. The Army is the one institution in our country that is a mirror image of our great society," Westphal said. "Diversity is important because it is the richness and depth of our many different origins that broadens our thinking, that gives us a stronger base of knowledge, and that bring greater support for a common purpose."
Delivering his remarks in Spanish, Westphal's message resonated with the cadets and underscored that the Army's strength is a combination of its values, ethics and diverse force. He discussed the complexity of war and the critical need for well-educated and versatile leadership on the battlefield.
"I recently visited Soldiers in various locations throughout Afghanistan. I was proud to see that all of the Soldiers I met reflected what's best about our country -- its diversity," Westphal said. "When I would approach Latino Soldiers, I would speak to them in Spanish. Typically, their eyes would grow wide and they would respond in English. When I asked in Spanish whether they speak Spanish, they would suddenly wake up from their incredulity and say they just did not expect that the under secretary of the Army would also be a Latino."
"That expectation; that idea of limits, is a challenge we must overcome by expanding diversity throughout our ranks," Westphal said.
In response to Westphal's remarks, Lt. Col. Gustavo Perez, professor of military science at the University of Puerto Rico -- Rio Piedras said, "Doctor Westphal's message greatly impacted my cadets. He truly inspired them by his example of what they can achieve through education, dedication and hard work -- even as a Latino. He underscored the direction of the Army and the critical the role that each of them will play as an officer and leader as the Army reshapes the force and builds capacity for future contingencies; developing the Army of 2020."
Westphal challenged the cadets to continually learn and be adaptable leaders who are capable of responding to, and meeting the ever-changing demands placed upon the Army.
"The Army missions awaiting you are difficult, and you have to learn fast; continuously adapting while applying lessons learned in order to accomplish your mission," Westphal said. "We've chosen you not because you know everything, but because you know how to learn and we have seen your potential for greatness."
In closing, Westphal acknowledged the cadets' extraordinary academic efforts and highlighted the unwavering support they receive from Puerto Rico.
"Your future is possible because of the educational opportunities that Puerto Rico has afforded you" Westphal said. "Use it well, and know that education is a lifelong process. No institution places greater emphasis on learning, education and leader development than the United States Army."
In remembrance of fallen heroes from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, cadets from the "Taino Warrior Battalion" left an empty table throughout the event to serve as a poignant reminder of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and celebrated the important role that the U.S. Army plays in the safety and security of our nation.
During his visit to Puerto Rico, Westphal also met with key government officials and military leaders from the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserves.