WEST POINT, N.Y. (Jan. 18, 2013) -- The U.S. Military Academy welcomed Brig. Gen. Richard D. Clarke as the 74th commandant of the Corps of Cadets Jan. 18 during a change of command ceremony at Cullum Hall, here.
Clarke, the former deputy commanding general of operations for the 10th Mountain Division (Light) at Fort Drum, N.Y., comes to West Point with nearly 28 years of leadership experience at every level of command from company to brigade. As the Corps' senior ranking officer, the commandant is responsible for overseeing the administration, discipline and military training of cadets.
"The role of the commandant in the United States Military Academy has changed over the past 200 years but the fundamental purpose holds steady, to best prepare our cadets for their future role as values-based commissioned officers," said Superintendent Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr.
Huntoon said Clarke arrived to West Point with a remarkable record of selfless service and professionalism, having commanded multiple infantry units in combat and served in support of Desert Storm and both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
"Rich is a warrior-leader with rock-solid credentials for competence and with a heart for Soldiers," Huntoon said. "He will excel as the commandant for cadets."
Thinking back to his time as a cadet, Clarke said it was unimaginable to even consider back then the opportunity of becoming the commandant, so when it happens it is both exciting and humbling. Jokingly, he addressed his fellow classmates from the Class of 1984 in attendance that, to them, the change of command must seem incredulous.
"And you're actually here to take photos so that there is proof positive that this is taking place," Clarke said. "Despite the disbelief, I am here. And the dean has promised me he will not release my records."
Joking aside, Clarke said it is the mission of the U.S. Military Academy that will be his focus and priority as he leads the Corps of Cadets.
"We have an incredibly important mission here and I believe in that mission with all of my heart to develop commissioned leaders of character committed to the values of duty, honor and country," Clarke said.
Clarke said he views his role as that of selfless service to the Corps and academy, and a steward to the U.S. Army.
A reminder of that selfless service to the Army was sitting in the audience when Clarke introduced Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, one of the first Soldiers he met after joining the 1st Ranger Battalion, at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga., in 2004.
"He's a Soldier of just the most positive, incredible good spirit and humor and he showed that to me on day one," Clarke said.
Remsburg, from Company B, 1-175th Ranger Regiment, was seriously wounded in Oct. 1, 2009 while serving on his 10th combat deployment, Clarke said.
"He probably shouldn't have lived. His fellow comrades found him in a river bed after he'd been blown off a bridge and brought back to life," Clarke said. "He is here today and embodies everything that is good and right about our Army."
Clarke said as commandant, he will think often about Remsburg's resilience and selfless service as West Point cadets train to lead and influence the lives of Soldiers.
The ceremony also marked the departure of the outgoing commandant, Brig. Gen. Theodore Martin, who will serve as commanding general of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
Martin told Clarke the Corps stands ready to respond to his command with high spirits and stout hearts as he embarks on "one of the most rewarding and memorable tours of duty you will ever have."
Prior to the change of command, a private ceremony was held in the Pershing Room at Cullum Hall where Martin was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. His wife, Stephanie, was awarded the Civilian Service Medal and the West Point Chapter of the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club presented her with the Dr. Mary E. Walker Award, as an outstanding military spouse contributing significantly to the quality of life for Soldiers and their families.
"We have been so fortunate to have Ted and Stephanie Martin lead the United States Corps of Cadets…lead from the front and lead by example every single day in a manner that has been absolutely breath-taking," Huntoon said.