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Graduation Doesn’t Mean Stop Learning, Vice Chairman Tells NDU Grads

By Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2008 – Graduating from a military university shouldn’t be the end to a servicemember’s learning, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during the National Defense University graduation at Fort Lesley J. McNair here today.

Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright was the keynote speaker, telling the graduates he had “bad news” for them on their celebratory day.

“If you think this is the end of education and you’ve learned it all, you are sorely mistaken, and there will be a problem as you move into the future,” Cartwright said. “You will be irrelevant, and you will be the only one who doesn’t know it. You must stay educated. You must continue to do what you have done this year. You must do it on a self-paced approach, and you must do it in a formal approach. Absent that, you will not be able to credibly lead the people we are recruiting.”

He said the quality of recruits during his time in the military has improved dramatically, partially due to moving away from a conscript-type force.

“Much of our recruitment program was set aside by federal judges,” the vice chairman said, citing the formerly common practice of judges telling young men before them to choose between going to jail or joining the Marine Corps. “It was a very different force.”

Cartwright said some “very brave uniformed people at the top” decided to create the all-volunteer force. He said recruiting enlisted members out of high school and abolishing the draft completely changed the makeup of the enlisted force. On the officer side, the vice chairman said, the military university system and education with industry have created the same type of change, and only education could have done it.

The general told the graduates -- U.S. and foreign officers, along with other government officials -- that he expects them to be the leaders the military needs.

“I have an expectation that you’ll leave here, go back to your units, and advance the capabilities of national and global security,” the general said. “That expectation is one that I will hold you to.”

The vice chairman said part of that is leading the troops under their command.

“Those who you lead will have an expectation of you that you will have to meet,” Cartwright said. “Their expectations of you are probably higher than mine. That’s not a bad thing.”

Cartwright said many of the military universities are having their graduation around the same time. He also noted that some uniformed servicemembers are completing internships with businesses. While what they learned is important, Cartwright said, the people the graduates have met along the way will be among the most advantageous parts of their completed education.

“We’re very proud of our joint heritage and where we’re going as a joint force,” Cartwright said. “But modern warfare today and as we move to the future will be much more about our interagency colleagues and our international colleagues. They will define how we fight war in the future. They will define how we prevent war in the future. It is us with them in a partnership that will have the best opportunity to solve the world’s problems. Joint is important, but not as important as the relationships you have built here with your international and interagency colleagues.”

The general said those relationships must be nurtured as the graduates move on to leadership positions and that they must be prepared to do whatever’s necessary in their role as leaders.

“You must remain flexible, you must remain credible, and you must be ready to do the unexpected,” Cartwright said. “Innovation has to be part of your mind set. There is no playbook for what you’re going to be asked to do on the battlefield.”

Also during today’s National Defense University graduation events, Former Defense Secretary William J. Perry accepted an honorary doctoral degree from the institution.

Perry was presented with the doctoral hood by Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frances C. Wilson, NDU president, and Cartwright.

During the presentation, Wilson said Perry received the honor for his contribution to national security and the university. While Perry was undersecretary for research and engineering, he was responsible for weapon systems procurement and development, citing his role in the development of stealth technology.

Perry said that in the period between him serving as undersecretary and later defense secretary, the department made great leaps in technology. “I soon concluded that this was about people, not about equipment,” Perry, who served as the 19th secretary from 1994-1997, said. He said people are what drive the department to excellence.

“Perhaps the strongest impression made on me while I was secretary of defense was the incredibly high quality of our military,” the 80-year-old Perry said.

(Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office.)

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Gen. James E. Cartwright

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