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Cartwright: Graduates Need to Build on Education With Experience

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

NORTHFIELD, Vt., May 11, 2008 – Newly commissioned second lieutenants and ensigns need to use their knowledge from college, but also must be willing to pick up more knowledge through practical experience, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.

Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, speaking at Norwich University here, said the new officers will find themselves in unexpected situations in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.

The general recalled a time when local citizens needed assistance while he was on a relief exercise in Thailand.

“A farmer came up and grabbed me by the sleeve and said, ‘We really need some help. Our elephants are stuck on a piece of high ground. They’re sick, and we can’t get any food to them.’”

After finding the location on a map and traveling to Bangkok to get some supplies, Cartwright and his sergeant major tracked down two young Army captains who had just been commissioned as veterinarians. “I don’t think they had more than two months between them with their rank on their shoulders,” the general said.

Cartwright told them what the circumstances were and got a local doctor to tell them how to take care of an elephant. The veterinarians were tasked with administering antibiotics to the elephants.

The next morning, two helicopters inserted the soldiers into the jungle, the general said. With Cartwright in one helicopter and the sergeant major in the other, they “roped” down, and the veterinarians followed.

“We sat there for a second to let them get their eyes adjusted,” the general said. “About the time their eyes adjusted, you could hear a little bit of a meow from a tiger.”

He said they felt the rustling of the brush and realized they had been set down in the middle of the area the elephants were in. Despite the circumstances, they carried out their mission.

“That night at the bar, they were heroes, but they had new shorts on,” Cartwright jokingly said.

He said that type of unpredictable experiences await newly commissioned officers.

The general said much of the knowledge young officers need isn’t taught in school. “A lot of what you’ve learned in school is going to be important,” the vice chairman said. “But there are a lot of other things you have yet to learn. Don’t throw anything away, because you never know when you’re going to need it.”

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

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Biographies:
Gen. James E. Cartwright


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