Here are some of the nuggets I pulled out:
- But in my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should “have his head examined,” as General MacArthur so delicately put it.
- If you chart a different path, there’s no telling the impact you could
have – on the Army, and on history.
- Maxwell Taylor, class of ’22, was an Asia foreign area specialist in the 1930s before becoming the famed commander of the 101st airborne, superintendent of West Point, and later Army Chief of Staff and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He once observed of his fellow academy grads that, “the goats of my acquaintance who have leapfrogged their classmates are men who continue their intellectual growth after graduation.”
- You should look for opportunities that in the past were off the beaten path, if not a career dead end – and the institutional Army should not only tolerate, but encourage you in the effort. Such opportunities might include further study at grad school, teaching at this or another-first rate university, spending time at a think tank, being a congressional fellow, working in a different government agency, or becoming a foreign area specialist.
- Consider that, in theater, junior leaders are given extraordinary opportunities to be innovative, take risks, and be responsible and recognized for the consequences. The opposite is too often true in the rear-echelon headquarters and stateside bureaucracies
in which so many of our mid-level officers are warehoused. Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging in reconciling warring tribes, they may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting power point slides, preparing quarterly training briefs, or assigned an ever expanding array of clerical duties. The consequences of this terrify me.
- In an article for Military Review following his tenure as a corps commander in Iraq, General Chiarelli suggested that, while the opinions of an officer’s superiors should hold the most sway, it’s time that the Army’s officer evaluations also consider input from peers and, yes, subordinates – in my view the people hardest to fool by posturing, B.S. and flattery.
- And as two Iraq veterans, then-Lieutenant Colonels John Nagl and Paul Yingling, wrote in a professional journal some years ago, “the best way to change the organizational culture of the Army is to change the pathways for professional advancement within the officer corps. The army will become more adaptive only when being adaptive offers the surest path to promotion."
- But I would like to close by telling you why I believe you made the right choice, and indeed are fortunate, to have chosen this path. Because beyond the hardship, heartbreak, and the sacrifice – and they are very real – there is another side to military service. You have an extraordinary opportunity – not just to protect the lives of your fellow soldiers, but for missions and decisions that may change the course of history. You will be challenged to go outside your comfort zone and take a risk in every sense of the word. To expand what you thought you were capable of doing when it comes to leadership, friendship, responsibility, agility, selflessness, and above all, courage. And you will be doing all of this at an age when many of your peers are reading spreadsheets and making photocopies.
- One of my favorite quotes from the Revolutionary War era is from a letter Abigail Adams wrote to her son, John Quincy Adams. She wrote him, “these are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life or [in] the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed. …great necessities call out great virtues.”