Archive for Saturday, June 16, 2007

Army chief honors graduates

June 16, 2007

— For those unsure of the goal in the war on terror, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. issued this reminder Friday at Fort Leavenworth.

"I think it's useful to remind ourselves that this Army exists to field forces for victory," Casey said. "We are in this war to win. We've fought that way since 1775, and we always will."

Casey was at Fort Leavenworth to salute the 2007 graduates of the Army's Command and General Staff College. The nearly 760 U.S. and international officers honored Friday participated in a 10-month graduate-level program in which they learned war-fighting and leadership skills.

Casey had been the commander of multinational forces in Iraq before becoming the Army chief of staff. He was replaced in Iraq by Gen. David Petraeus, who had been the commander of Fort Leavenworth.

"I've been watching the men and women of our Army in action for the past several years in the most demanding combat environment," Casey told the graduates. "And I take great pride in their courage, their confidence, their compassion and their commitment to both the ideals that make this country great and to making a difference in our world. You epitomize what is best about America."

He said the Army faces a heavy burden in a war against global extremists. Command and General Staff College graduates, he said, will continue to reflect the "very best of America" by defeating the proponents of terror.

Although most of the graduates will be heading out on different paths, Casey reminded them of a common goal that they will all live by the rest of their lives. He recognized that many sitting in the audience already had been into battle for their country and have come out stronger for it.

"You've been baptized in fire and come out steel," he said. "That steel will endure. Our warrior ethos has it right: I will always place the mission first, I will never quit, I will never accept defeat and I will never leave a fallen comrade."

Casey said the Army has proven itself time and again, and that this graduating class would continue the tradition of selfless efforts that make victory possible.

"You are Army strong, you are the strength of this nation, and I could not be more proud today to be a soldier and stand shoulder to shoulder with you and your families," he told the graduating class.

For Maj. John Perkins, one of Friday's graduates, Casey's speech was an honorable way to finish his time at the fort.

"I thought it was great the chief of staff of the Army felt it was important enough to come to speak to us," he said.

Perkins plans on returning to the Iowa National Guard to serve his state but admits he is sad to say goodbye to the friends he made at the fort.

"It was a great experience," he said. "The community and the college was just one of the best things of my life."

Maj. Edward Lee Bryan Jr. also said the graduation was bittersweet.

"When you sit next to 16 people in one little room for 11 months, you kind of get to know them and then all of a sudden one day you're all going in different directions," he said. "But that's what we do in the Army, so it's just kind of par for the course."

Despite those feelings, Bryan said having Casey speak at the graduation ceremony was an honor and a great way to end his time at Fort Leavenworth.

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