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Public Affairs : Kermit Roosevelt Lecture Series at West Point

Kermit Roosevelt Lecture Series at West Point

Story and photo by Michelle Eberhart

WEST POINT, N.Y. (March 10, 2016) - Lt. Gen. James I. Bashall, CBE, The Adjutant-General to the Forces, British Army came to West Point on March 9-10 to speak during the 70th annual Kermit Roosevelt Lecture Series. The purpose of the visit was to enhance the close relationship between the military forces of the United States and the United Kingdom.

Aside from fostering a better understanding between the two militaries, the annual series educates cadets in international affairs and relations.

History

Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr. introduced the oration by explaining the history of the Kermit Roosevelt Lecture series to the audience of junior cadets.

The lecture series is named after Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Kermit Roosevelt, who began his military career during World War I with the British Army in Mesopotamia. Once the United States joined the war, he fought with the American Army. Roosevelt died in 1943 while on active duty in Alaska.

In 1944, his widow wrote to Gen. George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff at the time, recommending an annual exchange of military lectures in the United States and the United Kingdom.

In her letter she explained that her late husband strongly believed, “a better understanding between military forces in the United States and United Kingdom would contribute in large measure to the preservation of world peace.”

This year was the 70th anniversary of the lecture series.

The British speaker visits the U.S. Army War College, Armed Forces Staff College, (in addition to the Command and General Staff College), and of course, the U.S. Military Academy.

The American speaker speaks at the Military College of Sciences, the Royal Military Academy, the Joint Services Defence College and the Ministry of Defence.

Lt. Gen. Bashall’s Lecture

The topic of Lt. Gen. Bashall’s lecture was, “Today’s Soldier—Dealing with the Moral and Ethical Challenges in times of Uncertainty.”

To break down the theme of uncertainty, Bashall addressed three truisms which he believes have the largest impact on modern day Soldiers: Expecting the unexpected, the military getting involved after an event, and wherever the Army goes, the world’s media will be there.

“I’ve worn this uniform for 34 years and during that time, a number of events have happened in the world,” Bashall said to begin his point. “In 1982, the Argentinians invaded the Falklands. In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, the Warsaw pact collapsed. In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. I probably don’t need to tell you what happened on 9/11. Then, in the spring of 2011, we had the start of the so-called Spring Uprising.”

Bashall insisted that the one thing that links these things together is that they’re unexpected, Bashall’s first truism, expect the unexpected.

“What happens after an event?” Bashall asked. “They look to the military to try to solve the problem.”

Bashall said the United States Army and the British Army work in tandem to form solutions to the unexpected problems.

“After an event, we are going to get involved,” Bashall proclaimed his second truism. “At readiness, we spend a lot of time thinking about equipment, doctrine and training,” Bashall mentioned. “And my proposition to you is that we do not spend enough time preparing our people for dealing with the uncertainty and short notice deployments, so I would contend we need to do more in terms of ethical preparation.”

 KRL1.jpgLt. Gen. James I. Bashall, CBE, The Adjutant-General to the Forces, British Army spoke to cadets March 9-10 during the 70th annual Kermit Roosevelt Lecture Series. The purpose of the visit was to enhance the close relationship between the military forces of the United States and the United Kingdom.

 

Bashall pulled up a slide of the book, “The Anatomy of Courage,” by Lord Moran.

In his view, he believes the book to be, “the definitive explanation of how men and women respond to combat, and it talks about fear and courage and preparation for battle.”

Bashall highlighted two points that he believed to be the most important.

The first is that an individual’s character is exposed when placed under extreme stress, battle for example.

The second is that “war does not transform, it merely acts as a canvas upon one’s character is painted, for all to see.”

He then pointed out his third truism, “Wherever we go somewhere in operations, the world’s media is with us, and we are going to be under the scrutiny of the world’s media.”

Bashall says that because of these three truisms, it is important to give Soldiers and officers a strong institutional foundation upon which they develop ethical habits, behaviors and character.

“Once the Soldier has the habit, or recognizes the virtue of the habit of constantly doing the right thing every day, I would suggest to you, in the profession of arms, that that Soldier will act consistently and predictably in any environment whether here in the U.S. or overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan because it’s become a habit,” Bashall noted. “And I think that there’s a lot in this, a lot in the basics of understanding the links among habit, behavior and character.”

He suggested to the audience of future officers that they must be able to motivate, train and inspire their Soldiers so they will be prepared for whatever unexpected problems may come their way.

At the end of his lecture, Bashall gave one last piece of advice.

“Constantly study leaders and leadership, don’t stop reading about history,” Bashall said. “I often say, ‘every day in the Army is a learning day.’”

At the end of the lecture, Bashall accepted a cadet tar bucket from Cadet Shiv Arya on behalf of the Class of 2017.