Transcript: Brig. Gen. Raymond Descheneaux’s 2015 Norwich Commissioning Address

On Sunday, May 10, 2015, Norwich University alum and United States Marine Corps Reserve Brigadier General Raymond R. Descheneaux ’87, the Corps’ Assistant Deputy Commandant for Aviation (Mobilization), addressed ROTC commissioning officers from the Class of 2015 at the formal Norwich commissioning ceremony. A copy of his prepared remarks follow.

Norwich: A Legacy of Leadership

Thank you, General Sullivan for that kind introduction. And thank you for all you continue to do on behalf of our University. From your earliest days as a cadet through your time as the 32nd Chief of Staff of the Army, through today, you continue to lead from the front. As Norwich’s most distinguished graduate in our school’s history, it is my honor to share this stage!

President Schneider and the Trustees of Norwich University, I want to personally thank you for this incredible opportunity to come home and be with my extended family. I cannot truly express my gratitude. It has been a pleasure getting to know each of you.

Today, Norwich is recognized globally because of your vision and guidance. In uniform our out of uniform, Norwich grads can be found making a positive difference in every corner of our planet and in every walk of life.

To MG Todd and all the distinguished guests I share this stage with; you have lived your life by example and we continue to look to you for guidance, you are a beacon of inspiration to us all.

To the Faculty and Staff, I thank you for your pushing these officers out of their comfort zone and expanding their view of the world. Because of you, their pedigree is unmatched.

To our military team of instructors, you are the ones who introduce reality to theory. You are where the rubber meets the road. You know what these officers will soon be confronting and have shaped their training accordingly. Thank you.

Before I continue, I would like to take a moment to wish all of the mothers in this gathering a Happy Mothers Day!

To the parents, family and friends who helped make this day possible, without your commitment, love, and sacrifice none of this could have ever happened.

Now, to the commissionees. I talk with you today as a brother in arms, a fellow graduate and a friend. From all of us here today, congratulations for making it through the crucible we call Norwich. As we all know, the hard part is not getting into Norwich, it is graduating from it.

The day you have been waiting for is finally here. By now, your car is, or should be, mostly packed with old uniforms, new uniforms and four years of who knows what. Mentally, there is Still a whirlwind-list of things you need to wrap up. Meanwhile, you have company in town! Then, of course, is the much anticipated, final drive down 89 South.

Well, for the next few minutes, I invite all of you to stop, catch your breath, and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and the atmosphere of this special event. This ceremony is an amazing moment-in-time…and it is ours to enjoy.

Today will mark the first day of your life as a commissioned officer. Before you take your Oath of Office, I would like to offer a few thoughts. As you know, what comes with this Oath is a great responsibility and an incredible challenge. As of today’s commissioning, you have one objective in life; to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

For the United States military, this is a very complex and varied order that spans the globe. However, it truly boils down to one fundamental purpose: To fight and win our nation’s battles. Period!

You have made the conscious decision to take a path less traveled; one of military service as an officer in the United States Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps.

Very soon, you can expect a high octane, rocket ship ride into the stratosphere, so tighten your chinstraps and lean forward. There may be no guardrails where you travel.

For our new officers, you have prepared your adult life for this challenge. You intuitively understand that military service is a calling and not just a job. In this world, if you are not thoroughly prepared, others depending on you may pay a painful price for your shortcomings.

I don’t have to tell this crowd, the threats are real. Many of you will be forward deployed faster than you realize. As we enjoy this morning, the reality is, our nation is locked in a clash of human wills, a war of ideas.

Right now, our enemies are actively preparing for or engaged in combat with our fellow countrymen. The enemy plays by their own rules; and for them, there are no rules.

Radical extremists, near-peer competitors, state and non-state actors top the charts of emerging or maturing threats in 2015. Nuclear proliferation, terrorism, cyber-warfare, and piracy remain in the headlines. Then of course there are the natural disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes, and now Ebla outbreaks. Sprinkle in regional instability or contested space and there is your powder keg. This is the world you are inheriting, the domain you must master.

However, threats to our liberties and our Republic are nothing new. There will always be new bad guys, new technologies, and new realms of instability to overcome. After 196 years, Norwich has gotten pretty good at producing warrior-statesmen that can confront and eliminate the next new threat.

Norwich men and women with backs of steel have answered our nation’s call and have moved to the sound of gunfire since our first graduating class. This is who we are, and this class is no different. The commissioning Class of 2015 already knows this.

Based on my calculations, when the Twin Towers fell, you were in grade school. Armed conflict and the defense of all-we-hold-dear is all that you know. It seems your path to this commissioning is only natural.

You also know the price for eternal vigilance. You know the recent names, faces, and personalities of those colleagues who have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. They and all of our brothers and sisters who have made this sacrifice will always be remembered. Today, we stand united as a testament to their service!

You have entered this calling with eyes wide open. You represent the next “greatest generation” of Americans and I’m proud to stand amongst your ranks.

Remember, coming from Norwich, you are well suited to operate in the modern battle space; a diverse battle space that blends combined and coalition partners, joint forces, inter-agency and non-government entities.

You will soon find yourself operating in a volatile, uncertain, and complex environment. And yes, there will be competing interests. To succeed, you will have to learn to thrive in this chaos; and master this domain!

To assist you I offer a few brief thoughts. Remember who you are and where you come from. Your family and Norwich have prepared you well for this journey.

Trust your instincts.

Reinforce your character and integrity at every turn. Never, ever compromise your standards.

Constantly seek self-improvement and master your profession with a vengeance.

Never underestimate your enemy or overestimate your capabilities.

Starting now, you must develop an intense if not insane work ethic. Sound extreme? Perhaps, but consider this, our enemies do not rest. They are preparing for you at this very moment. They are focused, driven, and unrelenting. They are resourceful. They have already been in the fight.

Some say you should “work smarter, not harder.” I say, in the world you will be operating, if you are not working both smarter and harder, you are already falling behind the power curve. For them to succeed, they must remain one step ahead of us. They trust you will be lazy, pre-occupied, and ineffective. You will prove them wrong.

You must master your profession so that you can get out in front of their thought process. The best hockey players don’t skate to where the puck is but where it is going. Anticipate failure and wrong turns when operating outside of your comfort zone. Correct your shortfalls, and never, ever give up. This is the difference between victory and defeat.

This is the new world you will be operating in! Remember this, as an officer it will never, ever be about you. It will be about the men, women, and the families in your care. Challenge, mentor and guide them to improve their physical, mental, and moral capabilities.

You will soon be handed the keys to America’s most precious natural resource, the American warfighter. Like those of yesteryear, this post 9-11 warfighter is amazing. Like you, they run like stallions, have the tenacity of a pit-bull, the cunning of a fox, and an insatiable hunger for information. They serve by choice and possess an unlimited fountain of ambition.

You will learn from them and they will learn from you. As a commissioned officer you have the additional obligation to develop and care for them. As a parent to a child, you must mentor, inspire, and always lead by example. You must also have compassion and understanding; a firm and guiding hand. They will emulate you. You are grooming our next generation of leaders.

Success is not based on machines or technology, but rather human nature and the will to succeed. This is has always been the intangible yet critical element of warfare; inspiring an individual’s will to overcome adversity. This is why the United States military is so successful in the art of “centralized command and decentralized control.”

We groom and trust our subordinates. Properly led, the American service member will deliver incredible results with their heart and soul. No threat on Earth can stop them!

And now, the torch is being passed and it is up to you. The future is yours; you will seize the moment. Like the Norwich men and women before you, there is no doubt you will blaze your own noteworthy trail in our Nation’s history!

We again want you to know how proud we are of your achievements. We know this world will be a safer place because of you. On behalf of your entire Norwich family, we wish you god-speed, fair winds and following seas as you become an officer in the United States military.

Thank you. Norwich Forever!