The nation’s highest ranking military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A Milley, spoke at Texas A&M University’s Commissioning Ceremony Friday and commissioned 159 cadets into the U.S. military as officers.
Five of the nation’s six military branches were represented. Officers were commissioned as follows: 12 Marine Corps; 21 Navy; 59 Air Force (including two Space Force); and 67 Army. The ceremony took place at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium on the Texas A&M campus.
Milley, former commander of Fort Hood, has been the 20th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since Oct. 1, 2019. He is the principal military advisor to the U.S. president, secretary of defense and National Security Council.
Through its ROTC programs, Texas A&M University commissions more officers into the military than any other institution, aside from the nation’s military academies. Milley said he’s spent his career working alongside Aggies, having the utmost respect for those he’s known.
“I work in the Pentagon and I’m surrounded by a lot of folks who attended West Point, Annapolis, the Air Force Academy…they all kind of look alike,” said Milley, a 1980 Princeton graduate who was commissioned Army ROTC. “But Aggies; there’s something special. Every single day it’s never lost on me who the Aggies are in the Pentagon. Every time I go to a unit anywhere. I was out with the Navy and saw some subs, I go see the Marines, Army, Air Force, no matter where you are, you’ll always find an Aggie. And you have everything to be proud of in the long tradition of this school.”
Milley recited Gen. George Patton’s famous quote about Aggies: “Give me an Army of West Point graduates and I’ll win a battle. Give me a handful of Texas Aggies and I’ll win a war.”
He noted the turbulence of the past year and congratulated the graduates for their tenacity in completing their college degrees.
“Our country has witnessed very turbulent times, including a formidable fight against a global pandemic which has killed more Americans than we lost in World War II,” Milley said. “Despite the challenges of the pandemic that’s been placed in our nation’s path, each of you has persevered together to reach your shared goals to complete your academic studies, to take care of one another, and decide to selflessly serve this nation.”
Noting that represented within the class of commissioning cadets were six countries and 42 states, Milley said, “You are the strength of our nation. You represent an experiment in liberty that’s captured in the simple phrase ‘E Pluribus Unum’ – of the many, come one.”
Milley spoke of the storied military history of Aggies, saying, “Members of this Corps of Cadets have served in every United States conflict since the Spanish-American War. Two hundred and sixty-four Aggies have served as generals or flag officers and eight alumni have received our nation’s highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Here at this school the unflagging devotion to preserve tradition is unparalleled really anywhere in the country.”
At the time Texas A&M opened in 1876, Milley said, the United States was enjoying a period of relative peace and prosperity.
“Then when your school was just 38 years old, a shot from a pistol fired by a terrorist in Sarajevo cast the world into the cataclysm of deadly global great power conflict that unveiled destruction on a scale not previously seen in human history,” he said. “Between 1914 and 1945, 150 million people were killed in the most violent three decades of human history.”
There has not been a third “great power war,” Milley noted, adding, “We are now in the 76th year of ‘great power peace.’ And it’s under stress, that great power peace. We can see it fraying at the edge and with history as our guide, we would all be wise to lift our gaze from the never ending urgency of the present, and set the conditions for a future that prevents great power war.”
He continued: “Right now as we sit here today in College Station we are engaged in a ‘great power competition’ with China and Russia. And with your help and your leadership we will keep it at great power competition, and avoid great power war.”
Milley told the graduates they had important roles to play in keeping peace.
“You can expect to be at the edge many times, to make hard choices, life and death choices,” he said. “And you’re going to do that with imperfect information. You’re going to have to keep your guard up, keep your readiness up against the enduring nature of all the security challenges that you are going to be facing, each and every one of you is going to be fundamental to our nation’s defense and you’re going to be well equipped to meet these challenges.”
Following his speech, Milley led the cadets in the Uniformed Services Oath, officially beginning their careers as military officers. Corps of Cadets officials said Milley doesn’t often commission officers at university ceremonies such as he did today, and that the entire Corps was honored to have had Milley’s participation. The oath is usually conducted by Brigadier General Joe E. Ramirez Jr., commandant of the Corps of Cadets, who hosted Friday’s event.
Distinguished guests included Bill Mahomes ’69 and Michael Plank ’83, members of the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents; Randy Brooks, class of 1986 regent designate; Jim Schwertner, regent emeritus; Daniel Pugh, vice president for Student Affairs; Col. Blake Connors, professor of military science; Col. Michael Riley ’94, professor of naval science; and Col. Sherry Levin, professor of aerospace studies.
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