AUSA Brings Together Cadets, Army Leaders

AUSA Brings Together Cadets, Army Leaders

Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson speaks with cadets
Photo by: AUSA/Gina Cavallaro

There is a strong propensity among young people to serve, said a senior Army leader who encouraged a group of future officers to find their “love and passion” for the Army by telling the stories they have in common.

“Any conversation that talks about a lack of propensity to serve makes light of those who are serving,” said Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson, commander of I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, referencing the declining number of young people interested in serving, a factor contributing to the Army’s recruiting woes.

Brunson made his remarks before dozens of cadets from ROTC programs and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, during a staff ride hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army’s Center for Leadership. The daylong event at the National Museum of the United States Army at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., took place Feb. 8.

Evoking African American soldiers’ service since 1775, when America’s Army was born, Brunson said they served because the “promise of America” always meant more to them than the oppression and inequalities shown by “the actual conduct of those in our nation.”

“What I hope is that by the conclusion of my remarks, you see that this is our collective history, and until we take ownership of all the history that we are, things like we've done today, which have truly enriched us all, [the inequalities] won't matter,” he said.

About 90 people participated in the staff ride, including current and former Army leaders, AUSA leaders and cadets from ROTC programs at the Virginia Military Institute, George Mason University and Hampton University in Virginia, Georgetown University, Howard University, American University and George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Morgan State University in Maryland, and West Point.

After touring the two museums, the first visit for most of the cadets and many of the senior leaders in attendance, the group discussed what they had seen and learned about the challenges faced by enslaved and free Blacks, and the heroism and sacrifices made by Black soldiers through history.

“I want you to own this history because it is ours, and I want you to own the thought that everybody serves because they see something better,” Brunson said. “You need to find your love and your passion for the Army, and that passion comes from the stories that we all share.”

The staff ride was an “incredible success,” and it achieved the Center for Leadership’s goal of highlighting the inspiring service of African American soldiers throughout history, said Angela Pubal, the center’s program manager. More leadership events like it are being planned.

“These are stories that should continue to be told—stories of selfless service to a nation that did not treat all soldiers equally,” Pubal said, adding that it was gratifying “to see the interaction between the senior leaders and the cadets, who spent the day gaining a deeper understanding of our country’s history together and forming new relationships they can take with them as they commission and move into their careers.”

Hampton University Cadet Jada Haskins, who plans to become a quartermaster officer, said she had approached the day as just another event to attend, but she gained a much richer experience.

“After being here all day, just being able to speak with these different senior officers, I’ve been able to see that no matter what route we take as cadets, we are still going to be trying to achieve the same common goal,” said Haskins, a junior, who appreciated witnessing the long-standing relationships built among Army leaders. “The Army has so many different connections, and this program has allowed me to see that.”