Award Winners Gather in Lexington for 35th Annual Marshall Seminar

Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno

Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno

Talking to the 266 George C. Marshall Army ROTC Award winners, LTG Dennis L. Via framed an important theme that was revisited many times during the three-day leadership training and national security seminar held April 15-17, 2012 in Lexington.

He observed, “While many of you here tonight are 21 or 22 years old, on September 11, 2001, you were only 10 or 11 years old, and every day since then you grew up in a nation at war, the longest in our nation’s history.”  LTG Via will soon assume command of Army Materiel Command.

That theme, broadly defined, included discussion of how the Army prepares for a changing world, how it now transitions to a smaller force, and how this planning will affect these soon-to-be-commissioned officers who represent the best from Army ROTC detachments across the United States.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told the cadets, “Our strategic environment has changed and will continue to change in unpredictable ways. Today, the world is defined by uncertainty and change. [T]his calls for us to think and lead in new ways.” To read Gen. Odierno’s remarks, click here.

At the closing session, TRADOC Commander Gen. Robert W. Cone said the army is going through two fundamental transitions: one structural and one human.  He sees a reduction in the number of soldiers from about 570,000 now to about 490,000 and a shift to regional alignment of units that study language and culture of places they may be sent.

As a result leaders in the years ahead will be expected to understand international affairs and strategic thinking. “Your soldiers expect you to be the linkage between one of them in terms of leading them in day-to-day operations and at the same time tying into the big strategy—the person who can explain why all this works,” he said.  To see Gen. Cone’s remarks, click here.

Generals Odierno, Cone and Via highlighted the seminar that included discussion of national security issues in small roundtables led by subject area experts.  Cadet Tyler Johnson, who will commission in May at Texas State University in San Marcos, said, “This has been a great experience.  I really liked the speakers.  And their perspectives.”  He will go into Armor.

This was the 35th consecutive annual seminar held in Lexington and hosted by George C. Marshall Foundation for Army Cadet Command.  New Cadet Command CG MG Jefforey Smith took this opportunity during his first ten days in command to talk to award winners and learn about their ROTC experiences.  Gen. Richard Cody, USA (Ret.), former Army Vice Chief of Staff and a member of the Foundation Board of Trustees, served as seminar chairman.

Cadet Command CG Jefforey Smith

Cadet Command CG Jefforey Smith and Cadet Shaniqua Walton

Gen. Dick Cody, Chairman

Gen. Dick Cody, Chairman

Cadet Douglas Rodhe, from University of Nebraska at Lincoln, said, “The best experience for me was meeting other cadets from different schools. I will definitely stay in touch with many of them. And I enjoyed the speakers.” He will report to Infantry at Fort Benning.

Col. Doug Charney, USA (Ret.), an award winner in 1982 from Penn State University, is now the strategic operations officer at the Center for Strategic Leadership at the U.S. Army War College. He co-led the roundtable at the 2012 Seminar on Homeland Security and Homeland Defense.

“When I attended this seminar in 1982, it was the first time I saw the big picture, the strategic world view. I have used that perspective in everything I’ve done since. It’s been invaluable. Even now when I instruct students at the War College, I can tell immediately those who understand strategy and those who go straight to the tactical solution or recommendation. The cadets this week seemed to understand the importance of thinking strategically,” he said.

Picking up the same thread, Sonny Busa, former U.S. Department of State and visiting professor, U.S. Military Academy, who led the roundtable on Pakistan, commented, “In the beginning the cadets had these black-and-white views. By the end of our two hours, they had become much more nuanced. One of our exercises was to work on a set of policies that in the end turned out to be as good as we have now.”

Fully 28% of the award winners had prior service. They provided different perspectives and learned through the lens of experience. For instance, Frankie Hibbard, former USMC sergeant, then a civilian contractor, now Army ROTC at West Virginia State University, said, “I really enjoyed the NCO and platoon leader roundtable. It gave me information I will put into my pocket to pull out later when I need it.”