Lori Parrent
Secretary to Gen. Peay

P: (540) 464-7311
F: (540) 464-7660
E: parrentlr@vmi.edu

201 Smith Hall
Virginia Military Institute
Lexington, VA 24450

CGSC Hall of Fame Induction 

24 May 2011 
Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas 

General Caslan, Distinguished Guests, Staff and Faculty,…Fellow Officers and dear friends…

I’m deeply honored by this selection and your graciousness. What a thrill to return to Fort Leavenworth and the Command and General Staff College…and have the honor and privilege to stand one final time before this splendid assembly—you heroes who have been at war for over a decade…and performed so superbly. I am proud of your duty and accomplishments. And a heartfelt thanks to you great patriots who have so well supported the men and women of this post and particularly the college for so many years in peace and war.

I was asked to “reflect” on my service…and “offer some thoughts” going forward. I confess to some emotions this morning, certainly nostalgia, as the moment unleashes many memories of now nearly 50 years in uniform and association with military life. These are just a few:

I remember my beginnings at the Virginia Military Institute…the rugged, spartan conditions of the Rat line…cadet gray and the red, white, and yellow of the school colors…full dress parades…the cementing of lifelong friendships…basking in the pride of knowing I was a member of an institution that was a guardian of the nobler traditions of American society-the ideals of brave, honorable, selfless men……the warm, familiar feeling of being part of a special team, one forged and molded in the crucible of the barracks, on the athletic field, and in the classroom.

I remember entering the Army in the aftermath of the Berlin crisis…participating in the rapid buildup of our forces in Europe during the Cold War in the early 1960’s…assembling nuclear projectiles...fighting in the Central Highlands on my first tour in Vietnam…standing with the men of our battery as we withstood the onslaught of North Vietnamese assaults…deploying on my second tour to Vietnam, knowing the war was lost and still, all of us,…in a largely conscripted force…doing our duty and engaging in one exhausting battle after another.

I remember being a member of the team that rebuilt our Army following the Vietnam War during the 70’s and 80’s…a team “inspired” by senior leaders and comprised of officers and noncommissioned officers who stayed the course,…who confronted the insidious ills of racial discord, drug abuse, and indiscipline in our force,…who reestablished high standards for our personnel,…who weeded out leaders unwilling or unable to do what was expected of them,…who eliminated the troops who did not measure up,…who restored morale and esprit,…who went back to school on the basics of soldiering; rebuilt the NCO Corps; rigorously studied the landscape of future warfare; pressed for new family, leadership, and values programs; and, launched our Army on the path to global preeminence among world armies.

One of our family’s fondest assignments was literally a “hurry-up” move to Fort Lewis to commence the forming of I Corps, which was being reestablished in the United States after years of duty in Korea and Japan. The Army saw the need for a Pacific Corps. I was the third officer assigned as the Corps G-3. The overnite influx of officers were mostly those at the end of their careers, yet they continued to serve with great selflessness. We had a rewarding time building the Corps; we worked long hours, and we had fun. In fact, this was one of my most enjoyable assignments, and I learned much about our reserve forces...guard and reserve…in this fully integrated Corps structure. Later, I was reassigned at Lewis to the 9th Infantry Division which was dual missioned as the Army’s High Technology Test bed while simultaneously remaining ready for deployment. Memories of deep attacks at the operational level of war, and strategic deployability mandates--reducing size and sorties while retaining lethality remain clear…and I suspect continued challenges today. 

I remember those early days in August 1990 when the 101st Airborne Division was alerted to go to the Arabian Gulf…officers and noncommissioned officers orchestrating, at that time, the most expansive, rapid deployment in the history of the Division…flag waving Americans lining the roads through Chattanooga and Atlanta and points south…hundreds of civilian truck drivers clad in t-shirts and baseball caps arriving with their rigs at the front gate volunteering to “line haul” our equipment to the port of Jacksonville…anxious spouses and children hugging loved ones good-bye and bravely carrying on throughout the conflict—with wives taking over Boy Scout troops, coaching soccer teams, and keeping their families safe and healthy while service members did their duty-all unfailingly supported by caring, involved civilian communities.

I remember the August 1990 blast of 128 degree heat on the tarmac at Dhahran Airfield…sights and sounds of Screaming Eagles erecting a massive tent city on the broiling, barren sand adjacent to King Fahd Airport…images of thousands of Screaming Eagles honing tactical skills and laying in their northern defenses during Desert Shield…the occupation of Camp Eagle II, Bastogne, and Oasis…surviving vipers, scorpions, MREs and shamals…and memories of ubiquitous water bottles, inverted Vs on vehicles, Tapline road, mail to any soldier, Bob Hope, Johnny Bench,…no Brook Shields, and gritty, hardened, proud air assault troops… with no E-mail and only rudimentary fax. My how change has and continues to accelerate.

I remember those early hours of G-Day on 24 February 1991…standing with a superb command team and the very finest subordinate commanders and staff, as hundreds of helicopter and thousands of soldiers of our Division huddled in small formations standing ready to strike. Thick fog lay heavy on the desert floor that morning and weather and enemy conditions along flight routes and on designated landing zones were uncertain. But when the order was given, our troops rose up with pride and élan.  They packed into choppers, loaded vehicles and attacked deep into the Euphrates River Valley.

 

I remember the heart-warming, overwhelming tributes to our troops at Ft. Campbell, Washington D.C., Chicago, New York City, and Nashville. A celebration of military victory of good over evil-a national homecoming that meant so much to all…especially to the generation of Vietnam War veterans who had never experienced the recognition that was owed to them for their sacrifice twenty-five years earlier.

 

I remember long days and nights in the Pentagon in the early 90’s, as budgets were being slashed, toiling in the staff trenches with talented officers as we slaved to restructure our post-cold war army, allocate money for new systems, maintain readiness, and carry out a flurry of missions…simultaneously reshaping the force for the future while deploying troops to Somalia, Bosnia, Kuwait, Haiti and other trouble spots around the world.

 

And I remember the faces of the men and women of US Central Command, my final command, dedicated patriots going about the tasks at hand in the harshest of environments without complaint…overseeing air operations over southern Iraq, enforcing maritime sanctions in the Arabian Gulf, working with foreign militaries, training our service men and women, and preparing for contingencies…serving in the proudest traditions of our Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

These reminisces transcend my individual experiences. They reflect the lives and times of hundreds of thousands of hearty men and women in uniform who have served our nation for nearly four decades…it is a “tapestry” depicting military families who moved children and belongings from one post to another when told to do so and carved out a new home every two to three years. Perhaps, more significant, these random thoughts tell a tale of military triumph over foes of the Republic.

You are now “resetting” and, like we from the Vietnam era, you are still fighting. You have had many successes and are terribly combat experienced. It’s perfect timing to think to the future.

The “rebuilding” of the Army after Vietnam and particularly in the mid- eighties saw the imaginative work (among others) of Chiefs of Staff Meyer, Wickham, and Vuono…and almost all of the “operational art” took place (right here) at Fort Leavenworth and CGSC. The establishment of the SAMs course; doctrinal and field manual reviews personally led by a Chief of Staff in a room full of senior and mid-level leaders; Division and Corps Commanders Conference and two and three-star Joint Commanders Conferences all with concluding table-top war games; and, civilian and military leader development studies and actions. There was a major expansion of CGSC school attendance with outstanding allied officers that added richness to the course and ensured friends and relationships that played out so well in the years ahead. In sum, the Command and General Staff College was “centered” in the middle of the doctrinal and leader fight…that led to the success in the ‘90s and beyond.

I know several of my suggestions will not be popular….and I understand that based on your near-term experience from this war where the current structure and tactical operations have been successful. Nevertheless, I offer three thoughts. First, the Army many times in its long history has had to make force structure decisions based on cost. This will be more “certain” and required in the days ahead. I would encourage a full understanding of a division base Army versus the brigade base in terms of the “economic reality” that a strategic Army will face. A division base force is moderate in expense, it deters, ensures leader development and training, and can be task organized across a wide spectrum of needs for an uncertain future. Through tailoring and habitual relationships it retains similar capabilities of the brigade concept. The brigade concept supporting tail, personnel, and school system training numbers are simply not optimum for the available defense dollars. In the eighties, after years of study and very positive testing, we terminated the heavy Division ’86 construct (overnite) as it was patently unaffordable.         Second, the institutional school system comprised and led by experienced and talented officers is the true hedge to secure our future. Strong schools and strong branches that educate, develop officers, and insure deep benches provide the mobilization capability for the worst of times. There should be some rebalancing between structure -- institutional and fighting --that corrects deficiencies in both and recognizes cost…or you will face a thousand cuts by incrementalism.

And, third, we must understand and appropriately make the Army’s case and promote the role and structure of the Army in, regretfully, the inevitable roles and missions arguments that will be forthcoming in these times of resources reductions. Play fair, but play strong…and make the Army case…it’s right for the nation. None of this is to diminish the greatness and importance of our naval and airforce brethren…nor to undercut jointness.

As I conclude, there are certainly “themes” that transcend time that surround the art and science of leadership:

Officership- understand it as to its broadest responsibilities and requirements.

Standards, standards, standards!

Leadership- a lifetime of study.

Listen- with your ears and eyes.

Tolerate ambiguity—Clausewitz’s friction.

Read, study, grow and take care of your health.

Care—“bone deep”.

As I graduated the class of 2011 a week ago Monday at VMI, the newly commissioned Lieutenants and Ensigns from all services asked me to write out my thoughts of a leader. After a few moments of reflection I stated…

“Great leaders have vision, are competent in their daily duty, and care deeply about people. They exhibit a style of “quiet excellence” with no ego, a strong work ethic and steadiness under pressure. Character and honor, love of country and service, describe their drive and inner strength.”

Thank you for this distinct Honor…..I wish you well!