Mullen: New Army Officers Should be Soldiers, Statesmen

WEST POINT, N.Y., May 21, 2011 — The new­ly com­mis­sioned offi­cers of the U.S. Mil­i­tary Academy’s Class of 2011 should strive to be sol­diers as well as states­men, the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the academy’s com­mence­ment here today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told the 1,031 grad­u­at­ing cadets that they will be mem­bers of a team that has helped to bring about suc­cess in Iraq, progress in Afghanistan, and sup­port the Unit­ed States and its allies are pro­vid­ing over Libya as it works to ensure secu­ri­ty around the globe. 

“You’re going to be expect­ed to sup­port and to encour­age and to lead that team almost from Day One,” Mullen said. “That’s a tall order, and hard enough all by itself, but today I’m going to give you anoth­er assignment.” 

That assign­ment, he explained, is to under­stand their respon­si­bil­i­ties extend beyond their pure­ly mil­i­tary duties. 

“I’m going to ask you to be states­men as well as sol­diers,” Mullen said. “I’m going to ask you to remem­ber that you are cit­i­zens, first and foremost.” 

Among the cadets who received com­mis­sions as sec­ond lieu­tenants today, join­ing “the Long Gray Line” of acad­e­my grad­u­ates — are 310 minori­ties, 225 women, 10 inter­na­tion­al cadets and 20 com­bat vet­er­ans who served in Afghanistan, Iraq or both. Since its found­ing in 1802, West Point’s 67,000 grad­u­ates have includ­ed Gens. Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, John J. “Black Jack” Per­sh­ing, Dou­glas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisen­how­er, George S. Pat­ton, H. Nor­man Schwarzkopf Jr. and David H. Petraeus. 

As a Navy admi­ral address­ing future Army offi­cers, Mullen said get­ting to know the men and women of the Army has been one of the great priv­i­leges of his tenure as chairman. 

“In this cur­rent job, we have become very close to the Army as we have worked hard to under­stand our sol­diers and the demands placed on them and their fam­i­lies,” he said. 

“It’s an Army tem­pered by 10 years of com­bat, an expe­di­tionary force that has lit­er­al­ly rewrit­ten just about every rule and every scrap of doc­trine it fol­lows to adapt to the real­i­ty it now faces,” he added. 

Though not much big­ger than it was on 9/11, the admi­ral not­ed, the Army now is orga­nized around brigade com­bat teams instead of divi­sions, deploys more mod­u­lar and flex­i­ble capa­bil­i­ties than ever, and “can kill the ene­my swift­ly and silent­ly one day and then help build a school or dig a well the next.” 

Today’s Army has surged to the fore of nation­al con­scious­ness, Mullen said, “not by being a bul­wark, but rather by being an agent of change.” 

The Con­sti­tu­tion stip­u­lates that through their elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives the peo­ple will raise an Army and main­tain a Navy, Mullen told the cadets. The Amer­i­can peo­ple, he added, “will deter­mine the course the mil­i­tary steers, the skills we per­fect, the wars we fight. … We there­fore must remain a neu­tral instru­ment of the state, account­able to our civil­ian leaders.” 

Because it is oblig­ed to pre­serve the insti­tu­tions that pre­serve it as a fight­ing force, the chair­man said, it is not enough to deploy or fight or serve “unless we serve also the greater cause of Amer­i­can self-gov­ern­ment and every­thing that under­pins it.” 

Such ser­vice, Mullen said, also oblig­es Army offi­cers to help the nation’s cit­i­zens com­pre­hend the full weight of the bur­den they car­ry and the price they pay when they return from battle. 

“This is impor­tant,” the admi­ral said, “because a peo­ple unin­formed about what they are ask­ing the mil­i­tary to endure is a peo­ple inevitably unable to ful­ly grasp the scope of the respon­si­bil­i­ties our Con­sti­tu­tion levies upon them.” 

As a sol­dier and a cit­i­zen, a mil­i­tary officer’s con­sti­tu­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty is to “pro­mote the gen­er­al wel­fare in addi­tion to pro­vid­ing for the com­mon defense,” Mullen said.

Mullen quot­ed Gen. of the Army Omar N. Bradley, the first chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to illus­trate that point: “Bat­tles are won by the infantry, the armor, the artillery and air teams. … But wars are won by the great strength of a nation -– the sol­dier and the civil­ian work­ing togeth­er,” he said. 

“It’s not enough that you grad­u­ate from here and learn your skill and lead your troops,” Mullen told the Class of 2011. “You must also help lead your nation, even as sec­ond lieutenants.” 

Sol­diers will win wars around the world, he said, by work­ing along­side civil­ians and with oth­er gov­ern­ment depart­ments, with inter­na­tion­al forces, and with con­trac­tors and non­govern­men­tal agencies. 

At home, he added, sol­diers will win wars by “stay­ing in touch with those of your troops who leave the ser­vice, by mak­ing sure the fam­i­lies of the fall­en are cared for and thought of and sup­port­ed, by com­mu­ni­cat­ing often and much with the Amer­i­can peo­ple to the degree you can.” 

Mullen remind­ed the cadets that ser­vice mem­bers also are the Amer­i­can peo­ple as vot­ers, Lit­tle League coach­es and cross­ing guards. 

“We are grate­ful for who you are and all that you will do for the Army and shoul­der to shoul­der with your fel­low cit­i­zens, the chair­man said, “for the nation and the world.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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