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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at an Oath of Enlistment Ceremony, Baltimore Military Entrance Processing Station, Fort Meade, MD (As Delivered)

Please, relax, everybody. Just relax. It's a little warm out here.

Good morning! 

[Applicants respond]

It is indeed an honor to be here with all of you today.

I'm delighted to be able to administer the oath of enlistment to the newest members of our All-Volunteer Force. 

This is one of the best parts of my job. This is really a delight for me today.

And it's great to see so many family and friends here today.

And thank you for your continued support. And thank you for what you've done to shape such fine men and women.

This is a big day for the young people standing in front of me. 

You've arrived here as individuals, but you're going to leave here as part of a team. 

This is also a big week for our military, and for America. 

Not only are we here one day after celebrating our independence, but 50 years ago this week, the United States stopped drafting citizens into service and turned instead to an All-Volunteer Force. 

And ever since then, Americans like you have joined our military out of conviction, and not out of compulsion. 

Now, shifting over to an All-Volunteer Force was a pretty bold step. 

No other military with such formidable capabilities had operated on a volunteer basis. 

But the whole world has seen the results.

You know, I joined the Army just two years after the draft ended in 1973.

And I've watched over the decades as the U.S. military has grown into the outstanding and incredibly professional fighting force that it is today. 

America's All-Volunteer Force is the strongest military in human history.

And the power of today's military is a testament to every American patriot who freely volunteers to keep our republic safe. 

And that means you. 

We rely on you. 

Our democracy relies on you. 

And your country relies on you. 

And so you're here to become part of something bigger than yourselves, and to defend our values, our freedoms, and our Constitution.

But you'll also find unparalleled opportunities to grow and to lead. 

You'll work hard. 

You'll learn new skills. 

And you'll put them to use at home and abroad. 

And you'll learn that success is a team sport. 

You'll stand proud alongside outstanding teammates from all walks of life. 

And you'll work, and train, and fight together as Soldiers, and Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, and Guardians. 

As so as you raise your hand and take the oath today, you're joining an unbroken line of patriots that stretches back to America's founding. 

And you're here to do your part. 

In return, the Department of Defense has your back. 

The United States has a sacred obligation to take care of everyone who volunteers to wear the cloth of our nation, as well as your families. 

And we commit ourselves to take care of you, just as you're committing yourselves to take care of all of us.

Now, you might not know this, but I did a brief, 41-year tour in the military. Forty-one years. Thought about making it a career. Just kidding.

But I served 41 years in the military, so I know firsthand the importance of the decision that you're making today. 

And whether your journey lasts for one term or for a full career, I want you to know how proud we are of you. 

And I'm confident that you'll rise to the challenges of our time, and lead with character.

Thank you for answering the call to serve this great country. 

So let's make it official with the oath of enlistment.

I want to ask you all to come to the position of attention and raise your right hand and repeat after me.

"I, ________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

[Applicants repeat each line after the Secretary]

You can put your hands down now.


Let's give these applicants a round of applause. 


Welcome to the greatest team in the world.

We're absolutely thrilled to call you our teammates and have you in our ranks.

And I wish all of you good luck. And I'm sure that there are some future [sergeants major] and general officers in this crowd.

I look forward to seeing you climb rapidly to the top.

Thank you very much.