WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 5, 2012) -- Gen. Dennis L. Via, the commanding general of U.S. Army Materiel Command, spoke at the 13th annual Diversity Leadership Conference to a luncheon audience of more than 100 attendees inside Eisenhower Hall here, Oct. 3.

"Having served in our Army for more than 30 years, I have come to know, experience and appreciate the value of diversity," Via said. "I know through conferences and events like this we will all be better prepared to face the challenge of the future and our Army will be better prepared because of all of you."

Via noted by week's end America's military will have reached its 11th year supporting Operation Enduring Freedom -- something that would not have been possible without harnessing diversity within its ranks.

"As those years of war have shown us, today's threats in a very complex, global battlespace will require an Army that is versatile and agile with a keen awareness of the entire battle space," Via said. "That means our leaders and Soldiers must not only understand the culture within which they are operating--for we have currently forces operating in nearly 80 countries around the world--but it also requires our leaders and Soldiers to have a firm grasp on the many characteristics and backgrounds within their own ranks of the men and women they are privileged to lead."

The theme of this year's conference is "Diversity: The Road to Readiness" and Via remarked on its relevance.

"Because I truly believe that diversity is a readiness challenge. One of the key factors in our Army's ability to fight and win our nation's wars is the ability to recruit, develop and train the most talented leaders from America's diverse population," Via said.

While answering a question from the audience, Via also admitted that the diversity road is never-ending.

"I don't think there is an end state," Via said. "I think it's like readiness, you may achieve certain levels in the band of excellence, as we call it, but I think those are programs you need to continue. It's a continual investment in our forces."

Via opened the luncheon by thanking Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon, the U.S. Military Academy's superintendent, for continuing this conference which he had first attended two years earlier. He also thanked the cadets in attendance for having the foresight to take advantage of this unique educational opportunity.

"Your being here demonstrates you are thinking ahead and thinking about leadership -- specifically diversity leadership and leading in a diverse Army, so it's especially great to have you here," Via told the cadets. "In a career of service in our Army you will face challenges and you'll be presented with many opportunities, especially when it comes to diversity in your career."

Earlier in the day he spoke with cadets in an electrical engineering class on the topics of life-long learning and mentorship. The two-day diversity leadership conference focused on the areas of urban outreach, faith and belief, gender, hazing and bullying, with an wide range of industry and military leaders providing their expertise and insight during panel discussions and lectures.