The 32nd Chief of Staff of the Army, retired Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, who is currently the president and chief executive officer of the Association of the United States Army, spent the day March 6 with the staff, faculty, students and family members of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy talking about leadership, commitment and service to the nation, and thanking them for their sacrifices.The day began early with Sullivan addressing the members of Sergeants Major Course Class 64 about all aspects of leadership and ended with his attendance at the USASMA Spring Ball as the guest speaker. The event was held at the Centennial Banquet Facility on East Fort Bliss.
Speaking to a room of nearly 700 people Sullivan begged the question of “What is the essence of the military,” but not before he first recognized the spouses in attendance.
“I want to make a special note of the sacrifices that you and your children have made these last few years. I start counting the wars back with Panama when we went there in December of 1989, and we haven’t stopped since. You haven’t stopped,” Sullivan said. “And many of your spouses have been with you through all of that. Whether they have been with you for 20 odd years or the last 10, or the last five, they have seen you come and go to very dangerous places. And I want to thank each and every one you for your support of these great Soldiers. I am not sure any of us understands how much of a burden [you carry].”
Sullivan then turned his attention to the question at hand – essence, what is it?
“The essence of the Army; the Navy; the Air Force; the Marines; and the Coast Guard – it’s easy to say, but what is it?” he asked. “I can take you places and you can feel it. I could ask you to touch the battle streamers on these flags up here and it would take your breath away the number of places these services have been. But what is the essence?”
Sullivan made note of the numerous battles and conflicts the United States military has been involved – places like Trenton, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Shiloh, Normandy, Saratoga and more. He talked about having to fight in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tripoli, Guam, Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, Fallujah, Bunker Hill – places he said are examples of the “essence” of the military.
“It is the history of our country. You all are a part of that history,” he said. “Many of these battle streamers were put there by men and women like you, and Soldiers that you left, and none of those battle streamers is there without the shedding of blood.
“You can’t go to Iwo Jima, the Marine Corps Battle Monument, and not be impressed by that black granite base with the names of every battle etched in the granite and colored in gold. Normandy, 10,000 crosses and Stars of David – 10,000 and more than 1,400 missing in action. Young Americans who said, ‘Hey, look at us, look at us, here we come.’ You can feel it.”
Sullivan explained his belief that the Civil War private who stands guard over Antietam on that huge granite monument to the American Soldier, represents all service members.
“I choose to believe since there are people buried there from all services; I choose to believe that that Soldier, that Civil War private represents all of you. Not for themselves, but for their country,” he said. “That is what you represent, it is a proud legacy. The essential nature of the service, yours, no matter what your country, is men and women who are willing to sacrifice themselves for something larger than themselves and do so with discipline courage and yes, even good grace and humor. You are special. You are special people.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, commandant of USASMA, said he was very pleased that the Academy could get General Sullivan to come and speak to the class and at the ball.
“I could not have been more thrilled when we received the response within 10 minutes of asking if General Sullivan would be our guest speaker. He has certainly led a distinguished career in uniform and ever since he put the uniform on he has never really taken it off,” Malloy said. “He has been serving our Army quite some time and continues today in the capacity of our Association of the United States Army president and CEO. It was truly an honor having him as our guest speaker and his speech was excellent and truly inspiring.”