By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
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 they will be members of a team that has helped to bring about success in Iraq, progress in Afghanistan, and the 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 leadership.”
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.”