Myers Passes Torch to New Generation of Leaders
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WEST POINT, N.Y., May 28, 2005 Time Magazine dubbed the West Point Class of 2005, "The Class of 9-11." And the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, cast a shadow in the bright sunshine as those cadets graduated today.
The U.S. Military Academy Class of 2005 celebrates with the traditional hat toss after being commissioned at the conclusion of graduation exercises May 28. Photo by Leslie Gordnier
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The class entered the U.S. Military Academy here just three weeks before the attacks in Washington and New York. War became a reality on a crisp "seemingly harmless September day," said Lt. Gen. William J. Lennox, the academy's superintendent.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told the class that the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unite him with them. "My term as chairman began a few short weeks after 9-11, and of course you were just a few short weeks into your academic year," Myers said during the graduation address.
"I'm sure those events shaped every day of your next four years and gave you a clear sense of purpose and a heightened sense of resolve," he continued.
The impact of those events are evident as today's graduates move into the Army and could be leading platoons and units in Iraq or Afghanistan within the next year.
The 9-11 attacks changed the world, Myers said. He told the graduates that the war on terror is really about two incompatible systems vying for superiority. "Tolerance, democracy, freedom, justice and hope on the one hand, versus intolerance, repression, violence and fear on the other."
The enemy is ruthless and knows no limits, he told the graduates. The enemy's preferred weapon is fear. "That's why failure is not an option, and we will not fail," he said.
Myers also spoke about the changes in the military caused by the lessons of the global war on terror. "You've studied the campaigns of the past and the lessons of the great battle captains, many of whom were educated in the same rooms that you were," he said. "Now you must apply those lessons to a military that is moving from an Industrial Age to the Information Age."
The U.S. military will draw strength from intellectual and technical innovation and become a more joint force, Myers said. "When we integrate the strengths of all the services, we enhance our abilities across the spectrum of operations, and we certainly complicate the choices our adversaries have."
Myers said operations in Iraq demonstrate that the American military is truly a joint, interdependent force. "In Ramadi, we've had a Marine battalion commander working for an Army brigade commander who works for a Marine division commander under an Army three-star (general)," he said. "That's sort of business as usual these days."
He said the new graduates will find themselves working in many new ways with many different agencies and allies. "Nothing is routine anymore," he said. "You are pinning on your (lieutenant's) bars while our nation is at war, and the only certainty is that your future will be full of challenges and unanticipated obstacles. As you are commissioned today, one thing we do know is that much will be asked of you in the coming years."
Myers told the graduates that their education doesn't end today. He said they must be prepared for a lifetime of learning. "That's because today's security environment demands flexible, creative and adaptable leaders," he said. "The Army you will serve has embraced a culture of innovation, not only in the form of new technology, but also by expecting leaders to respond quickly and effectively to constantly changing environments."
Myers said this was the first class to enter West Point since the early days of the Vietnam War that chose to stay "knowing you would raise your right hand and take an oath to swear to defend the Constitution while this nation was still at war."
He said that type of selfless service is one of the most important traits a leader can have. "It's your time to lead," Myers said. "As you lead, I know you will take care of the nation's sons and daughters and their families who are in your charge. You know it's your duty, and they are the nation's new greatest generation."
Myers said over the past four years "we have all been forged by the experience of 9-11, I personally feel great pride in your accomplishments, and I thank you and commend you for your decision to serve. As my career draws to a close, I am very confident in passing the torch to a tremendous new generation of leaders -- you the class of '05."