By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2012 – The U.S. military is a learning and growing entity, and young officers must be flexible enough to lead their organizations, the commander of U.S. Africa Command told ROTC cadets here today.
Army Gen. Carter F. Ham spoke at the Association of the U.S. Army’s ROTC luncheon at the Renaissance Hotel.
Ham, who is the senior ROTC graduate in the Army today, compared what he faced when he entered the Army in 1974 with what today’s ROTC graduates will face. He noted that when he entered the Army, the draft had just ended and the enemy was the Soviet Union.
“We focused everything we did on that one single, but very dangerous and predictable threat,” he said. “The Army that you will lead is very different from that.”
The threat environment is unpredictable, Ham said, and that will create more challenges for young officers coming into the force. “The good news is, the soldiers and noncommissioned officers that you will lead are tremendously experienced in this environment,” the general told the cadets. “They are combat tested. They are culturally savvy. And they have demonstrated their ability to perform a wide range of tasks across the spectrum of conflict.”
The very excellence of the rank and file in the Army today means the service needs officers who are “imaginative, agile, adaptive, and can think critically and creatively,” he said.
But while the methods will change, Ham said, young officers can stand on the bedrock of 237 years of Army history and values. “Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage are values that don’t change,” he said. “They are the foundation upon which you and your leadership and professional knowledge will be built upon.”
The U.S. military has to be ready to confront a range of threats and issues, and the government has not been very good at predicting where the next threat is coming from, Ham said.
“But we do know the security environment is going to be increasingly complex,” he said. “The world in which we live is ever so connected, and events go global instantly. So we may not know precisely what threats will emerge, but as an Army, as individuals, we must be prepared to respond across the spectrum of conflict to address those threats.”
The next decade will see dynamic change, and young officers coming in today must survive and prosper managing that change, the general said. The combatant commands will change, and young officers must understand the roles and missions of these commands, Ham said. Language training and cultural training will become more important, he added.
“My crystal ball is a little bit fuzzy, and I don’t know what the future holds,” Ham said, “but I do know that wherever you are going to operate as Army officers, it is going to be inside somebody else’s culture, and the more we understand about that, the better off we’ll be.”
Young soldiers today will be working even more closely with sailors, Marines and airmen in joint operations, and the ability to work with civilian agencies and international partners also will be an important asset for young officers, Ham noted.
“We have a hard time predicting what will happen,” he said, “but we can identify the attributes that will be necessary for success.”