The commander of the Army Materiel Command addressed future Army officers during the 2013 ROTC Luncheon at the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Gen. Dennis L. Via, who was an ROTC cadet at Virginia State University 33 years ago, spoke to the cadets about his own experiences, and about their decision to serve as military officers.
Via lauded the cadets for belonging to an elite community of Americans – the less than 1 percent who serve in the armed forces.
"Your role within that one percent is especially important," Via told the cadets.
Adding, "You and your fellow cadets may be the only men and women to wear the uniform of an American soldier that many of your classmates will ever know well. You all are, in a way, ambassadors for the armed forces."
That role is especially critical for those who serve in the reserve component, Via said, as those officers continue to make connections between the Army, the officer’s chosen profession, and the community in which they live.
"As the percentage of our population serving in uniform declines, your role as scholar-soldiers, as citizen-soldiers, will become even more valuable and important to the future of our Army and our nation," Via said.
Via told the attendees they should be proud of their service as ROTC cadets.
"You’re part of a program that has produced some of America’s greatest leaders," he said. "Being part of such an elite group doesn’t come easy."
Over the past 12 years, soldiers have become smarter and stronger, Via said.
Strategies and tactics have evolved and improved, and our equipment remains unsurpassed. Despite emerging from the past era better then when we entered it, Via said the future holds many changes and challenges.
Adding, "Change is constant, but what hasn’t changed is that soldiers remain the centerpiece of our formations. As their lieutenant, you’ll be the person they look to for leadership."
He told the cadets, "Leading and caring for soldiers is the business of our Army. It’s very serious business. And sooner than you think, it will become your business."
Via offered several points to help the future leaders succeed in their future careers.
"Work hard to become highly competent in your career field so you are the recognized expert," he said, noting that many soldiers are combat-experienced and require competency from their leaders in order to build trust.
"Always be professional in your conduct, appearance, and attitude," he added. That professionalism becomes the foundations for an officer’s professional reputation.
Via also advised the future officers to adhere to and enforce standards and discipline in everything they do, advising them to keep themselves physically fit, to adhere to a strong code of ethics and values, and to expect the same from everyone they serve with.
"Integrity is absolute," Via offered as his fourth piece of advice.
He added, "Integrity is one thing that can never be taken away from you – it has to be given away. As officers, you cannot, under any circumstances, compromise your integrity."
Being a good officer and a good person rounded out Via’s list of advice for the young future leaders.
"All I’ve spoken about this afternoon isn’t going to be easy," Via said.
"But if you adhere to these points you will earn the respect of the soldiers you lead, of the peers who serve alongside you, of the commanders who will place their confidence in your abilities, and of the American people who will look to you for their defense and to uphold the values of our Army and our nation," he concluded.
(AMC Public Affairs)