At Annapolis, Obama Urges New Officers to Set the Example
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ANNAPOLIS, Md., May 24, 2013 President Barack Obama vowed today that despite financial uncertainties and budget pressures, he will fight to ensure a strong, ready military the United States will rely on as it faces the future.
Addressing 1,047 members of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2013 during their graduation and commissioning ceremonies here today, the president also challenged the graduates to become models of discipline and honor as they enter the fleet and Marine Corps.
Under a gray sky that turned rainy, Obama told the new Navy ensigns and Marine second lieutenants that the nation “is counting on them to build on security progress and to confront new challenges.”
“Just as you've changed over the past four years, so too have the challenges facing our military,” he told the graduates, citing the end of the war in Iraq and drawdown underway in Afghanistan, and the strengthening of U.S. alliances around the world.
But the job isn’t finished, Obama told the class.
“Even as we've decimated the al-Qaida leadership, we still face threats from al-Qaida affiliates and from individuals caught up in its ideology,” he said. “Even as we move beyond deploying large ground armies abroad, we still need to conduct precise targeted strikes against terrorists before they kill our citizens.”
While staying vigilant against these threats, the military also needs to stay ready to face a full range of threats, from proliferators of weapons of mass destruction to cyber criminals seeking to unleash them, Obama said.
Recognizing tough fiscal times facing the nation, the president promised to ensure the U.S. military has what it needs to confront these challenges.
“Let me say as clearly as I can: the United States of America will always maintain our military superiority,” he said. “And as your commander in chief, I'm going to keep fighting to give you the equipment and support required to meet the missions we ask of you, and also to make sure that you are getting the pay and the benefits and the support that you deserve.”
Obama drew applause as he vowed to keep fighting for the capabilities and technologies the military needs to prevail. This, he said, includes the plan that remains on track to build a 300-ship fleet “with capabilities that exceed the power of the next dozen navies, combined.”
The president also called on Congress to end the budget sequester, and adopt smarter budgeting processes that keep the military strong.
“We have the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in history, and I am determined to keep it that way, and Congress should, too,” he said.
The nation’s security demands it, he said, telling the graduates what will be asked of them.
“We need you to project power across the oceans, from the Pacific to the Persian Gulf, 100 percent on watch,” he said. “We need you to partner with other navies and militaries from Africa to the Americas. We need you to respond with compassion in times of disaster, as when you helped respond to Hurricane Sandy.”
In conducting these missions, the president called on the new officers to apply the same mental, physical and moral standards they demonstrated at the Naval Academy.
“Our military remains the most-trusted institution in America,” he told the class. “When others have shirked their responsibilities, our armed forces have met every mission we've given them. When others have been distracted by petty arguments, our men and women in uniform come together as one American team.”
But even in the military, “the misconduct of some can have effects that ripple far and wide,” Obama said.
“In our digital age, a single image from the battlefield of troops falling short of their standards can go viral and endanger our forces and undermine our efforts to achieve security and peace,” he said.
Similarly, those who commit sexual assaults “are not only committing a crime; they threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong,” the president said.
“That's why we have to be determined to stop these crimes,” Obama insisted. “They've got no place in the greatest military on earth.”
He called on the new officers to be examples for the people they lead and, by extension, for the entire military and the American people.
“As you go forward in your careers, we need you to carry forth the values that you've learned at this institution, because our nation needs them now more than ever,” he said. “We need your honor, that inner compass that guides you, not when the path is easy and obvious, but when it's hard and uncertain, that tells you the difference between that which is right and that which is wrong.”
Obama urged the new officers to embrace these principles and to lead those under their charge with honor.
“Never ask them to do what you don't ask of yourself,” he said. “Live with integrity and speak with honesty, and take responsibility and demand accountability. We need your honor and we need your courage” -- moral courage as well as physical courage.
Looking out over the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the president said he’s confident the new graduating class has what it takes to become the next generation of military leaders.
“And I'm absolutely confident that you will uphold the highest of standards, and that your courage and honor and your commitment will see us through, and that you will always prove yourselves worthy of the trust our nation is placing in you today,” he said.
Navy Secretary Raymond Mabus, Jr. as well as Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations; Marine Gen. John M. Paxton, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps; and Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller, the Naval Academy superintendent, joined the president in welcoming the new officers to the force.
“These past four years have challenged you in a lot of ways and prepared you for the challenges ahead,” said Mabus, citing the myriad missions Navy and Marine Corps members conduct around the world.
Sailors and Marines have stood watch as “a steady presence to respond to whatever comes,” he said. “U.S. sailors and Marines have done this, and done it superbly for decades. And now it’s your turn.”