Dr. Maer, SGM Dolasky, CSM Faris, commanders, senior enlisted, ladies and gentlemen, and most importantly, academy graduates. Good morning and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to join you at your graduating ceremony.
Before we get into it, I think it’s only fitting to take a short moment and acknowledge all the folks responsible notably the academy cadre and support personnel not just the ones who made this ceremony possible, but also the school instructors who brought you from then to now. Ladies and gentlemen if you’d join me in a round of applause.
Such a motivating time, graduation. But at your level and experience it’s not motivating by way of the “after eight weeks or six months it’s finally over,” not because you “can’t wait to get out of the classroom and back into the field,” but I submit that it’s motivating because you are returning to your command so much more intellectually advanced in and around all three levels of war.
You’ve just mastered an interesting and action-packed curriculum. And as reality would have it that the operational demands shouldered by our SOF forces up to and through 2020 may pretty much stay the course and in some cases increase. So this operational pause that you’ve just completed will pay significant dividends not just for your individual confidence and abilities, but toward a larger mission set and that includes essentially the goal of every warfighter and that’s getting inside the enemies decision cycle.
Your vast years of experience bring a very relevant operational art to your portfolio. And in the same context I’m confident that this advanced stage of education you’ve just completed has certainly enhanced your science. You know in our line of work we don’t achieve mission milestones without art and the science. These are two key ingredients to a tactician’s menu and may not blend well if used separately.
Admiral McRaven’s recent comments when he talked about the indirect approach were appreciated. Nothing new … something you all have been doing for quite some time in a FID mission sort of way, and now what’s morphed into security force assistance and augmented by a larger general purpose force.
In the larger force, I believe though there still remains steep learning in pockets of the enlisted force as to why and how the indirect approach can really put us on the left side of the boom where we live and operate in a world of continued and emerging threats. I myself along with some out in the audience grew up in a straight-leg infantry world. It’s a world where Monday through Sunday the gospel that we lived and survived by was, the 5-paragrah order and patrol order. And that’s the way it was.
Unlike our SOF community, a special breed of tactician, we weren’t taught the critical thinking skills or necessarily nurtured with an ability to be innovative, or operate with a widened aperture. It was SMEAC and what to do vice the how to think and that’s what you followed. You know that got us through but wouldn’t last in todays’ asymetric battlespace.
When I hear you all being called warrior diplomats, that’s a check in the block to give me the optic that you get it. The prevent and deter .. likely a smarter COA to step out on than the attack and defend. It falls directly in line with the SECDEF’s vision and the national military strategy. As warfighting changed across the years, the sign that really hit me when it was mentioned that we could very well find ourselves conducting a raid or operation with someone other than a military commander and in a very less kinetic way. And that led to let’s start thinking about, instead of the traditional operation order with an information annex, how about we write an information order with an operations annex. Wow! Talk about a change in the way we fight or prepare to fight. And that’s one of the many things I respect about our special operations community. Ability to fuse with multiple organizations and navigate out of the linear parameters we sometimes tend to rope ourselves in.
Let me start to close by saying this –
While there are some slight differences in our components, service culture, there are many similarities and shared common denominators to both SOF and conventional force communities that are important to recognize.
1) We are all senior enlisted and our sole existence is this big gun club is accomplishing a mission assigned by our commander returning with as many of our men and women as feasibly possible.
2) Regardless of uniform or assignment, we all have troops to keep focused and their families to watch over.
3) As senior enlisted, we’re problem solvers, but always seek the knowledge and attributes to be a better leader … to be a problem preventer. Lastly, we all belong to one profession of arms. I purposely leave the ethical and moral comments for last and not just because of recent events or because today happens to be the anniversary of Mei Li, but rather in every one of these cases, I think we’ll find there was an enlisted leader in a position to prevent it. Our ethical and moral high ground does not take on separate levels of standards just because we wear a different unit patch or cap badge or diverse backgrounds, and missions.
As your SEAC let me just say again, that I am extremely honored to be a part of your graduation and I know the chairman shares my excitement to see what you picked up over the last six months, permanently applied to your work ethic and battle rhythm.
Thank you for your continued service and congratulations on one helluva an achievement.