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Perna to senior, junior cadets at luncheon: ‘ROTC changed my life’

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Three days after pinning on his fourth star, the new commander of the Army Materiel Command spoke to high school and college students about his rise as an Army officer.

Gen. Gus Perna told the junior and senior ROTC cadets that he credits his own ROTC program and experiences for his success, during a luncheon at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

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Gen. Gus Perna, commander, U.S. Army Materiel Command, speaking at the AUSA Annual Meeting ROTC Luncheon, urged the over 250 cadets to be ‘strong in character all the time, and it’s hard.’ (AUSA News photo)

“ROTC changed my life. It brought me discipline. It brought me standards. It brought me teamwork. It brought me compassion and caring. It brought all the great attributes that we are known for today,” said Perna, who was the keynote speaker at the event.

Perna reflected on his cadre at Valley Forge Military Academy, sharing the lessons they taught him more than three decades ago.

“The biggest lesson I got from my cadre was that in the Army, you are responsible for leading soldiers,” he said, noting that the responsibility means training soldiers to go to combat – to take the lives of the enemy and to save their own lives and the lives of their fellow comrades.

To be successful, Perna encouraged the cadets to remember their personal and professional triangles.

Personally, balance work, family and health, and while the angles will often deviate and shift, recognize when one area needs more attention and care.

Professionally, hold strong to the values of competence, commitment and character without any deviation in the angles, he said.

Be competent – educated, informed and inquisitive.

Honor the commitment made to the Army and the nation, and remember the oath and responsibility to defend the Constitution. And most importantly, never allow character flaws to interfere with actions or the organizations being led.

“We must be strong in character all the time, and it’s hard,” Perna said.

Adding, “It’s the responsibility we have to ourselves, our families, our units, our soldiers, our Army, and most importantly, our country; if character is flawed, we will not be successful.”

Among a noteworthy crowd of active and retired Army senior leaders, Perna praised the students.

“The most important people in this room today are the cadets, the future leaders of our Army, those who will take us where we haven’t been, those who will take on the enemy of our future, those who will use the new equipment that we see on the [exposition] floor today, those who will be soldiers in our place,” he said.

His words echoed those of AUSA’s president and chief executive officer who opened the lunch.

“My hat’s off to all the young people here who have made a choice when you have many, many other choices, whether through junior ROTC or senior ROTC,” said retired Gen. Carter Ham.

Adding, “You chose to learn. You chose to develop yourself. You chose to be become a better leader, and for that, our country and our Army are better.”

Perna closed much the same as he began his remarks – with a maxim. The two most important days in a person’s life are the day they are born and the day they figure out why, he said.

“The reason why I was born was to be an American Soldier,” said Perna, noting that was the day he commissioned from ROTC as an Army officer.