By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2012 – The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was recognized with a leadership award from the nation’s oldest war college as he spoke to its newest class of students in Newport, R.I.
Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr. spoke to nearly 600 students at the U.S. Naval War College after receiving the school’s distinguished graduate leadership award.
“It’s truly humbling to join such a distinguished group of previous recipients,” he said. “The impressive list of these leaders is a testament more, probably, to the talented faculty of the Naval War College who have always given so much to [those who have] attended this course.”
Winnefeld is a June 1994 graduate of the school’s College of Distance Education. The military college was established in 1884 and has since provided professional military education to more than 50,000 students since its inaugural graduating class in 1885.
This includes nearly 300 of today’s active-duty admirals, generals and senior executive service leaders, according to its website.
“We, who are the 50,000 alumni of this program, truly benefitted from the rich, mid-career education and the opportunity to simply stop and think that the Naval War College so ably provided us,” Winnefeld said. “For those of you who are incoming students – most of you – today begins a year of intense study of the strategic and operational underpinnings of our profession of arms.”
The admiral explained the students will make the transition from “tactician to strategist” while attending.
“You are in a place where giants have read, thought, talked and written about the most challenging and important security issues of the day,” Winnefeld said. “Whatever that day happened to be in the 128-year history of this institution.”
The vice chairman named a long list of prominent leaders who have preceded the new class of students.
“All of them have sharpened their world view here and formulated a way ahead that truly made a difference in the world around them,” Winnefeld said. “There’s a lot going on in that troubled world today. There always is, so you’ll have plenty of real world events to give texture and context to what you’ll learn right here in Newport.”
Winnefeld said told the students the war college gives them an opportunity recharge their batteries and “a time to restock your intellectual cupboard.”
“Many of you will be able to find, in the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, ‘simplicity on the far side of complexity,’” he said, “and come up with the beliefs and ideas that will guide our Navy, and Marine Corps and our joint armed forces to success in the future.
“It’s possible that in the process a few of you will find an insight as profound as those made by some of your notable predecessors who made such a difference coming out of here,” the vice chairman added.
Winnefeld’s advice to the group was to have a willingness to challenge personal assumptions as well as those of each respective service and the nation’s at large.
“You should not be intimidated by the momentum of current conventional thought,” he said. “Remember that incredibly intelligent adults will work incredibly long hours to perfect fundamentally flawed ideas.”
It also takes a lot of work, he said, capturing and organizing the discoveries and trying to understand the full complexity of the security field in which the Defense Department operates.
Winnefeld also noted it takes self-confidence and the ability to articulate ideas to be successful at the Naval War College.
“It takes confidence in your own intellectual capacity and your ability to make a difference,” he told the students. “You cannot be afraid, and need not be afraid in this place, that your ideas will be ridiculed.”
The vice chairman offered a bit of competitive incentive to the new class of students to help promote ingenuity and creativity.
“I want to read the best 10 papers of any ilk, judged by the faculty here, that come out of this group,” Winnefeld announced. “I will host the authors of the two best of those papers for lunch in my office at the Pentagon.
“Now, that’s not a cash prize, so that may not seem like such a good deal to you,” he continued. “But it’s a really
good deal to me. And I’ve got a really good cook, so think about it.”
Posted by Rosalie Bolender