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Myers Challenges 'September 11 Class' at NDU

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2002 – The 495 U.S. military officers, civilians and international students who graduated today from the National Defense University here have forged a special bond, according to Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers.

"You watched the Pentagon burn on Sept. 11," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reminded the students. On that day, the 451 Americans and 44 international students became known as the "September 11 Class" and they took on a new role in the war on terrorism.

"You have forged bonds that you're going to need as we continue this fight globally against terrorism," Myers said. "My challenge to you is to build those relationships and to keep your minds receptive to new ideas."

He urged the students to think about what kind of leaders they'll be. "Are you going to encourage your supporters to be innovative or are you going to squelch them?" he asked.

Myers told the students to reject those who resist change by saying, "We've never done it that way." He said the graduates need to be flexible, adaptable and smart. "We want folks who can tell the chain of command what they need to do, not what they want to hear."

No matter where they're assigned next, he stressed, the war on terrorism must be their primary focus.

"You can be guaranteed one thing," he said. "We know the terrorist pressure is going to be relentless. So our pressure must be relentless."

U.S. defense officials have learned the terrorists are patient, disciplined and shrewd. "They think and they adapt," he said. "They've adapted to our initial weapons in Afghanistan and they'll keep adapting. That's what we're up against."

"Terrorists kill innocent civilians," Myers said. "Our job is to protect the innocent. They seek violence and bloodshed. We seek peace. They're driven by hate. We're motivated by compassion. Their contempt of human life has been shown. We respect human dignity."

U.S. officials know terrorists are planning the next attack. "We don't know where or when or what magnitude," he said. "We do not know if it's going to include weapons of mass destruction, but if they can get their hands on them, they will (use them)."

Countering the threat requires fresh thinking and better information sharing among U.S. government agencies, civilian organizations and coalition partners, he noted.

"We share a risk -- everybody in this class -- like we have never shared a risk before," Myers said. "We're in this together. We also share a common commitment to do what we can do to protect our citizens against this threat."

The military must be resolute in this endeavor, Myers concluded. "This has to be our primary focus. If we do that, there's no doubt in my mind that we will win. We must win."

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