Myers Speaks to ROTC Cadets of Integrity, Commitment
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
OKLAHOMA CITY, Mar. 29, 2005 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff left the Arnold Air Society/Silver Wings National Convention here March 28 more confident than ever about the future of America's military.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers meets ROTC cadets at the Arnold Air Society/Silver Wings National Convention in Oklahoma City. Myers talked to the cadets about integrity and commitment. Photo by Jim Garamone
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
About 1,500 ROTC cadets from around the country listened as Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers spoke of the challenges the United States faces and how leadership is necessary to get the nation through these demanding times.
"What a great group of folks you all are," Myers told the cadets. "You can tell by the look in your eyes that you are serious about what you do. I'm tremendously impressed."
The chairman -- who was commissioned through the ROTC program at Kansas State -- told the future officers that "it's going to take a lot of leadership to work our way" through the war on terror. And, he added, this is a dangerous period in the war.
He pointed to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City 10 years ago as an example of the effects such attacks have on the nation. "We saw it again on 9/11, and we've seen it in other places in the world," he said.
The war on terrorism is really a war between two visions, Myers said. One treasures freedom, tolerance, justice and hope; the other sponsors tyranny, violence and fear.
He told the cadets today's security environment requires flexibility. "We've got to be flexible in the way we approach problems or we're going to be beat by those who can be inside our decision cycle," he said.
He told the story of an Army lieutenant colonel approaching a sacred shrine in Iraq. A crowd of Iraqis had gathered and was definitely upset. The officer told his men to "take a knee" and aim their weapons at the ground. Myers explained that the gesture showed respect and calmed the crowd, allowing the unit to continue its mission. The general said this lieutenant colonel showed flexibility in the situation.
"You have to think through your situation and not necessarily rely on what might be in a book somewhere," Myers said. "We're in a time of dynamic change, and it will take dynamic leaders to work our way through that change."
Myers used another example, this one in the category of "what not to do." He related a story of a major who showed up to a battle exercise in Japan carrying a load of books. When Myers asked him why, the major said he was going to ensure that every move in the exercise went according to the doctrine. "That's not the kind of thinking we need today," he said.
Myers told the cadets that he stayed in the military because he liked the mission and he liked the military culture. "I like the values that we hold here," he said. "And integrity is central to what we do."
The general spoke of a recent trip to Iraq, during which he flew into Baghdad in a C-130 Hercules aircraft. "You have to count on that crew to have integrity," he said. "You count on the loadmaster and flight engineer and the pilots to have done the proper preflight and proper planning. Once you're aboard, you count on folks making sure you are properly strapped in. If something happens, they are prepared to handle it.
"That's the kind of trust you have in the military every day. I like to know that I can count on the person on my left, on my right, in front of me, and behind me."
Myers told the cadets that doing the right thing can sometimes be tough, but it will let you sleep at night. He spoke of an instance when he was a colonel and a superior tried to influence a selection board. He had to be the one who called the superior to tell him his guy didn't get selected. "I thought, 'Oh boy, my career is gone,' but I slept well that night," he said. "You do the right thing, for the right reasons, and you let the chips fall where they may."
Myers urged the cadets to commit to doing the best they can in the jobs they hold. "It's all about making a difference," he said. "Do it in the job you are in." If they do that, then they will be rewarded with more work and more responsibility, he said.
The cadets gave Myers a standing ovation, and he stayed to shake hands and have his picture taken with every cadet who wanted it.
The Arnold Air Society is named for General of the Air Force Henry "Hap" Arnold. Arnold built the Army Air Forces during World War II and set the stage for the Air Force becoming a separate service. He was the only five-star general in Air Force history.