The top students in Cadet Command’s cadet corps entered a new classroom April 15, this one led by senior leaders schooling them on some of the challenges they will soon face guiding the Army’s future force.
The mission won’t be easy, a former vice chief of staff of the Army told the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets during the opening session of the 36th Annual George C. Marshall Awards and Leadership Seminar at Gillis Theatre located in the Center for Leadership and Ethics on the campus of Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va.
But, Gen. Richard Cody, USA, Ret., said he remains optimistic that the cadets in the audience who will be commissioned in the spring, will succeed in leading what he calls the "nation’s greatest treasure."
The American Soldier
"I’ve had the honor of leading them," said Cody, who is also the seminar chairman of this year’s Marshall seminar, hosted by the George C. Marshall Foundation.
Adding, "This generation of soldiers has displayed great courage on and off the battlefield. Many have endured repetitive tours and been immersed in some of the toughest battlefield challenges we’ve ever put our Army in.
"But they have maintained their moral compass and, at every junction, fought to do what was right, rather than do what was expedient or politically correct."
The seminar focuses on the principles of leadership, integrity and character exhibited by George C. Marshall, a former general of the Army and American secretary of state whose famed Marshall Plan for the rebuilding of war-torn Europe after World War II earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.
During the two-day seminar, cadets take part in a variety of roundtables focusing on subjects ranging from cyber warfare to cross-cultural challenges to joint operations.
They also heard from some of the Army’s leadership, to include, Gen. Robert Cone, commander, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command; Maj. Gen. Jefforey A. Smith, commander, U.S. Army Cadet Command; Brig. Gen. Kimberly Field, deputy director, strategy, plans and policy, Office, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7; Brig. Gen. Julie A. Bentz, director, strategic capabilities policy, National Security Council, and Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia T. Vimoto, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.
The Marshall awards recognize the top cadet at each of Cadet Command’s 272 battalions located on college and university campuses across the country. Since its beginning, the event has honored more than 10,000 students over the years.
Attendance at this year’s session, however, was scaled back due to budget constraints. Only 187 cadets, spread across the command’s eight brigades, were able to attend.
While the Army has been looking for cost-saving measures recently in the face of sequestration, senior leaders were adamant that the Marshall seminar would not be cancelled.
"The investment in our future leaders is a high priority for our Army," Cody said.
In congratulating the cadets on their honor, Smith praised their growth and development while in the Army ROTC program.
He said the cadets rank among the organization’s elite, and that they will make a difference in shaping the next generation of soldiers.
"I know your quality, and I know you had other options, yet you volunteered to commit some portion of your lives to serve in the military and to serve your country," Smith said.
Adding, "You represent the strength of our nation. It is leaders like you who will keep our Army strong."
Cadets will be presented an array of professional and personal development opportunities during the seminar, Smith said.
It’s up to them to absorb all they can as they prepare for the challenges ahead.
"We live in a complex world in a complex time," Smith said.
"You’ll be joining an Army that requires you to make decisions that colonels and lieutenant colonels were making some 25 years ago. Our junior leaders have to rise to a much different level in the environment you’ll be operating in than you ever have in the past," he added.
(Based on a story by Steve Arel, U.S. Army Cadet Command.)