By Lisa Ferdinando
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Feb. 19, 2015 – Despite the many challenges in the world, the one constant in the nation's history is great leadership, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke to members of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University.
Dempsey told the cadets their future is bright, whether they serve the nation in uniform or choose a career in the private sector. Cadets here are not obligated to join the military, but only the service academies produce more military officers than Texas A&M.
"My prediction is that you will do far more in your careers for your nation than I've been privileged to do for mine," he told the 2,400 cadets at dinner at the school's dining facility, referring to today's complex security challenges.
Facing Future Challenges
After a hearty "Howdy!" -- the greeting of the "Aggies," as the students are known -- the chairman said the future will "take every bit of your energy, your enthusiasm, your leadership, your dedication, your confidence.”
"I came here because I wanted to not just listen to or see, but feel the Aggie spirit," he remarked. That happened earlier in the evening, he added, when he served as the reviewing officer as the cadet corps marched by him. Each A&M unit passed, rendering a salute with their sabers, as they marched to the music of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band.
Great leadership is what Texas A&M provides to the state, the nation and the armed forces, the chairman said.
"There are plenty of adversaries to be dealt with, and plenty of uncertainty in the world," he said. "The one constant throughout my time in the military, and I think throughout our history if you study it closely, is leadership -- good, solid, selfless, professional leadership."
Cadets who choose to work in the private sector can "help us lead our way through our own domestic challenges," Dempsey said.
"In uniform or not, you all face an incredible future -- one that you should be really enthusiastic about -- and I know that in your own way, in your own time, you will answer the call," he said.
First Female Corps of Cadets Leader
Among the cadets Dempsey met was Alyssa Marie Michalke, who was named Feb. 16 as the first woman to lead the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets since the school's founding in 1876.
"It's a great honor and great privilege to be selected for this position," said Michalke, who will take command at the end of the spring semester and serve through the 2015-2016 school year. "I'm looking forward to serving this university and this corps alongside with some of the best leaders the corps has to offer."
She noted that the first female cadets four decades ago overcame obstacles and hostility to blaze that trail at Texas A&M.
"They're the real heroes in my mind," she added. "It's kind of just a great honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as some of these great females who came through here."
Michalke, a junior with a dual major in ocean and civil engineering, said she plans to work in the offshore oil industry in platform design or sub-sea systems.
The commandant of the corps, retired Army Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez Jr., praised Michalke’s selection. "It is very historic -- another very important day for our corps and our university," he said.
"I tell people that's a big deal, but I also want them to understand that she was selected for that position because she earned it," he said. "She was the best cadet for the positon, and that's why she got it. Her gender had nothing to do with it."
A Proud Military Tradition
"This is an exciting time for Texas A&M and our corps,” Ramirez said. “We've never had the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visit our campus before, so for us, especially in this particular time in our country's history, it's very, very important for us."
The school has produced many great officers in its history and will continue to do so, he said. It is "very humbling" knowing many members of the corps will be the next generation of warfighters, he added.
"But it also makes me proud that at a time when our country needs young men and women to step up to serve and Aggies are still answering the call," he said.
Dempsey is scheduled to address a student conference on national affairs today about the use of military power.