Today’s guest blog post was submitted by U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Charles D. Adams.
This past week, I returned to Fort Benning, Georgia 35 years after graduating from Airborne training in August 1977. As I expected, there were big changes on post. That became clear as I-185 South led to the majestic overpass with Iron Mike and Trooper of the Plains extending their greetings to the Maneuver Center of Excellence. In 2010, the Armor School collocated with the Infantry School as part of the Army realignment effort.
As I made the drive on post and found the location for my presentation, it was evident that elements of old Fort Benning endured. In the background stood two of the original 250-foot towers that I had to experience prior to making my first parachute jump (I did not fall) from an airplane. Signs on post pointed to Sand Hill and Harmony Church where I did my Ranger training in 1976. The towers and signs not only brought back memories but also invoked somewhat forgotten feelings–anxiousness, challenge, camaraderie, accomplishment, and pride–of earning Airborne Wings and Ranger Tab.
During the professional development session to the cadre of the Infantry school brigade, I spoke about artifacts of Organization Culture that symbolically represent the shared values of its members. Statues like Mike and Trooper, unit crests and division patches with descriptions of heraldry, and posters of Soldier executing tough training were ubiquitous and tacitly illustrated what the Army expected of its members.
Once again serendipity struck and I stayed for kick-off of the post’s first annual Black and Gold scrimmage. That event ostensibly showcased the West Point cadets on the field who represent the great potential of officer leadership in the coming decades.
While merely a scrimmage, it was clear that players on both teams were striving to do their very best to honor those in the stands–the new recruits in training, cadre and serving members with their family, and veterans now out of uniform.
The words of General Douglas MacArthur were fitting. “On the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days and other fields will bear the fruits of victory.”
The pre-game ceremony honored five men who risked all and sacrificed self for their men and nation. Recipients of the Medal of Honor, Silver Star, Distinguished Service Cross, and Purple Heart, they are exemplars of the Army value of Duty. Throughout the Army, these men are legendary in not only how they served in combat, but also what they did afterwards. The two contemporary honorees, one a double amputee and the other blind, continue to serve as Army officers in positions of responsibility.
The legacy of these professionals from Korea, Vietnam, and current conflicts also provide the artifacts of our Army Strong culture—things we need to embrace and hold on to—that represent our shared beliefs and values. I am certain seeing the heroes of the past and watching the leaders of the future made an impression on the students in both Armor and Infantry training units.
It is the senior leaders of our Army and the leaders in the ranks who will align our espoused values with actions to refine and strengthen the Army Culture. I am reminded of the 36th Inf Regt Motto, “Deeds, Not Words.” That is the essence of Duty.