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Release No: 322-96
June 03, 1996

Secretary of Defense William J. Perry's Commencement Remarks at West Point

Commencement Remarks by

Secretary of Defense William Perry

United States Military Academy, West Point

June 1, 1996

In 1915, a young cadet known for his pranks and football prowess was graduated from West Point. He was ranked 61st in his class and was hoping for a respectable career as an Army officer, perhaps even reaching the lofty rank of colonel. This cadet never imagined that he would rise to the rank of General of the Army, lead the largest combined military force in history, become Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, and eventually become the President of the United States.

That West Point graduate was, of course, Dwight Eisenhower. He was one of America's greatest soldiers, but he was equally famous as a statesman and a leader. You cadets may have some difficulty relating to Eisenhower as a role model. It is not likely that any of you will become president, and I hope that none of you will have to lead our military in a world war. But as you enter the Army today, you can expect a military career more diverse and more challenging than Cadet Eisenhower could ever have imagined in 1915.

I will illustrate my point by describing the careers of a handful of cadets who were graduated from West Point during the Vietnam War, and who are now leaders in the US Army. They were graduated one generation ahead of you. They believed in and lived out the West Point motto: DUTY (all of them saw combat in Vietnam) -- HONOR (all of them proved their bravery in Vietnam) - - COUNTRY (all of them worked to rebuild the morale and capability of the Army after Vietnam). Their hard work and dedication was vindicated in the Army's stunning victory in Desert Storm, and today they are creating a new security structure for our nation in the wake of the Cold War.

Like Eisenhower, they are building coalitions with nations all over the globe. Like Eisenhower, they serve as role models for other military leaders. And like Eisenhower, they are first of all, warriors and leaders. But they have been required to be more -- they are also warrior-statesmen, warrior-technologists and warrior-managers. And so will you be.

Before you toss your hats in the air and depart, let me tell you about some of those cadets who tossed their hats in the air 30 years ago. You will be required to deal with many of the same challenges they dealt with, and you could find no better role models.

Whatever else is required of you in your Army career, you will first of all need to be a warrior. And you could find no better role model than Barry McCaffrey. Barry became one of America's greatest warriors. He led forces into combat in Vietnam, where he was grievously wounded. In Desert Storm, General McCaffrey's 24th Infantry Division led the famous left hook that caught the Iraqi army by surprise, and led America to one of its most convincing battlefield victories ever. He then went to SOUTHCOM at a crucial time and seized the opportunities presented by the ascendancy of democracy in our hemisphere. General McCaffery's attributes as a warrior -- guts, brains and tenacity -- are key to success on today's battlefield. Now he is putting those same skills to work as a civilian, leading America's war against drugs.

Besides being warriors, many of you will be called on to be statesmen in the same mold as Eisenhower, Marshall and MacArthur. You could find no better role model of a warrior-statesman than Wes Clark. Wes left West Point in 1966 a Rhodes Scholar. He became a great warrior -- but he has also become a great statesman. General Clark was commanding an Army division when we brought him to the Pentagon to help bring an end to the tragedy in Bosnia. He was part of the diplomatic team that was driving into Sarajevo last August on the Mt. Igman road when an armored vehicle carrying five of his colleagues slid off the treacherous road and fell into a deep ravine. Wes left his vehicle, ran down the ravine and pulled two survivors from the APC before it exploded. He then pulled himself together and went on to Sarajevo to conduct what proved to be a critical negotiation with President Izetbegovic. It was the warrior skills that Wes brought to the diplomatic field that contributed to the cease fire between the warring parties, and finally to a peace agreement which was militarily enforceable. Because of the skills of this warrior-statesman, the killing in Bosnia has stopped and the threat of a wider war in Europe has been dramatically reduced. This past week, Wes Clark was nominated by President Clinton to take over the command of SOUTHCOM just relinquished by Barry McCaffrey.

During the Cold War, the US had technological superiority, which allowed us to maintain deterrence with smaller forces than the Soviet Union. But during Desert Storm, we had technological dominance, which allowed us to achieve a stunning victory, quickly and with minimal casualties. Now that we have experienced dominance we like it. And we plan to keep it. Some of you will be warrior-technologists responsible for sustaining that dominance. You may even end up reporting to Paul Kern, West Point 67, who is currently my senior military assistant. Paul is what I mean when I talk about a warrior-technologist. He was an engineering instructor at West Point. And he was decorated for combat both in Vietnam and Desert Storm. US News and World Report called him the only ace of Desert Storm. His tanks destroyed more than a dozen Iraqi aircraft that were trying to take off from Jalibah Airfield to escape the lightning thrust of the 24th Division's advance. This month, General Kern will assume the role of warrior-technologist when he takes command of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood. Under his leadership, the 4th ID will become the test-bed for the Army's Force XXI -- the battlefield of the future. The technologies he will test promise to revolutionize how we fight on the ground and ensure that we remain the world's dominant land force well into the next century.

Today's Army, while smaller than in the recent past, is still a corporate giant, so some of you will have to be warrior- managers during your career. The regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserves represent a giant personnel and resource management challenge far greater than that faced by any of our major industrial corporations. Investing wisely in people, equipment and training, and balancing scarce resources requires decisions that will affect the capabilities of the Army for decades to come. When you leave here today, you will be officers in an Army guided by a warrior, Denny Reimer, West Point class of 1962, who is also a superb manager. In 1990 Denny was the Deputy Chief of Staff busily planning the post-Cold War drawdown of the Army, when suddenly Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. In the face of this drawdown, Denny managed to provide the necessary forces for Operation Desert Storm, while still maintaining the quality and readiness of the US Army.

Because of the success of these efforts, the US Army is rightly recognized as the world's best Army. In fact, armies all over the globe use the US army as a model. So today, when you become an officer in the US Army, whether you want to be or not, you will become a role model. A classic example of this is Dan Christman, Class of 65, another warrior, who returns to West Point this summer as the new Superintendent. Just as General Graves has been a role model for every cadet that passed through these gates the past five years, so too will General Christman. Dan Christman is used to being a role model because for four years he has served as a role model for soldiers of the new democracies of the old Soviet bloc. As Military Representative to NATO and on the Joint Staff, General Christman has been a key architect of our efforts to help show the militaries of these nations how to operate in a democracy. He helped to create NATO's Partnership for Peace program, in which old enemies that used to train to fight against each other in war, now train together in peace. On Monday, I will be at the L'viv training range in Ukraine, along with the Russian, Ukrainian and Polish defense ministers, participating in a Partnership peacekeeping exercise. A primary benefit of these exercises is that officers trained under the old Soviet system are exposed to American officers and NCOs, and see first hand how a first class military operates in a democracy.

These multinational training exercises are excellent training, because anytime you go into combat, you are likely to be part of a coalition operation, and you will have to build strong bonds with your foreign counterparts. George Joulwan, Class of 61, has become an expert at building strong bonds. It was General Joulwan as SACEUR, the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, who put together IFOR -- the multinational coalition that is helping bring peace in Bosnia. He had to forge an alliance of 16 NATO nations plus 18 others, including nations from the former Warsaw Pact, and even Russia. I can only imagine what General Eisenhower, the first SACEUR, would think if he saw a Russian general sitting with General Joulwan at NATO headquarters reviewing their operational plan for deployment in Bosnia. I traveled all over the world -- Moscow, Geneva, Brussels, even Kansas -- to negotiate the Russian participation in IFOR with my Russian counterpart, Pavel Grachev. But it would never have happened if George Joulwan and General Shevtsov had not been able to sit down and hammer out a practical military agreement, warrior to warrior. General Joulwan's ability to put together this historic coalition will not only give peace a chance to endure in Bosnia, it will cast a long shadow over the security in Europe for years to come.

I have talked today about the diverse tasks being performed every day by officers in the US Army. But whatever you are called on to do, you will be expected to be a leader -- a leader of the world's best soldiers. Leading the American force in Bosnia is General Bill Nash, West Point Class of 1968. As commander of the 1st Armored Division, General Nash will tell you that peacekeeping is a mission that every Army officer must be prepared for. For decades, the 1st Armored Division was trained and ready to fend off a Soviet assault through the Fulda Gap. But in the summer of 95, when a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia seemed imminent, General Nash started up the first large-scale peacekeeping training program in our Army's history. He set up a training range in Germany which simulated all of the hazards our troops would face in Bosnia: contending armies, paramilitary forces, bad roads, mines, black marketers, and even CNN reporters. Every unit slated to go to Bosnia was sent to train at that range. The results were stunning. When D-Day arrived, twenty thousand troops, their weapons and supplies were moved into Bosnia. They were confronted with terrible winter weather, they faced the possibility of armed resistance and the reality of three million uncharted land mines. They made this move in record time and with no casualties, and they inspired respect everywhere they went.

Ten days after General Nash started moving into Bosnia, I went to Bosnia to visit our troops. General Shalikashvili, General Joulwan, General Nash and I all went from Croatia into Bosnia by walking across the pontoon bridge the Army's combat engineers had just built over the Sava River. Responsible for its construction was General Pat O'Neal, who's here today to see his son, Scott, graduate. Building that bridge turned out to be a problem of epic proportions. General O'Neal's team ended up having to build the longest pontoon bridge in history, because Bosnia was experiencing the worst winter and the worst flooding of the century. As we neared the middle of the bridge, we met some of the combat engineers who had built it. They were dirty, cold and exhausted -- but very proud. One of them, a sergeant first class, came forward and told us that his enlistment was up, and that he wanted to reenlist. So we swore him in for another four years in the US Army, right there in the middle of the Sava River bridge. After all he had been through -- bitter cold, soaking rains, snow, flooding of biblical proportions, the danger of land mines -- this NCO still wanted to reenlist. That is an example of true grit. That is the sort of soldier you will soon lead.

Well, I have told you today about some of the Army's leaders who were cadets here just one generation ago. They are leaving you one hell of a legacy. I have also told you something about the talent and dedication of our NCO corps. You can be proud to lead them, and you should follow General Reimer's guidance about these great NCOs -- that is, you should give a damn. I think you can sense how proud I am of the leaders and NCOs in our Army today. I hope you share my pride because you are about to become officers in the best damned Army in the world. And your country is counting on you to sustain its quality and morale.

All of you have challenging careers to look forward to. But as you face the challenges of a being a warrior, a statesman, a technological innovator, a manager, a coalition builder and a leader, you must never forget that you are more than an Army officer, more than the sum of your service. You are also private citizens, members of a community, a family, an extension of your friends and loved ones. Maintain perspective, strike a balance in your life, be considerate of others, reserve a share of your heart for those you care about and who care about you. They say a soldier fights on his stomach -- but a soldier also fights with his heart. The hopes and prayers of your families, of all Americans, and of freedom-loving people everywhere march with you.

In the stairway outside my office at the Pentagon hangs a favorite painting of mine. In the painting a young serviceman is praying with his family just prior to his departure on a foreign deployment. Under the painting is the passage from Isaiah in which the Lord asks, Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? And Isaiah responds, Here am I. Send me.

At this critical point in our history, your nation has asked, Whom shall I send? Who will go for us? And today you have answered, Here am I. Send me.

Your nation is grateful. Your families are thankful. And I could not be prouder.

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