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Public Affairs : Class of 2014 Graduation Banquet

Class of 2014 share final meal at Cadet Mess

Story and photos by Mike Strasser
Assistant Editor
WEST POINT, N.Y. (May 28, 2014) — The firsties gathered inside Washington Hall May 27 for the last time as a class to celebrate the journey’s end.

Class of 2014 Cadet Jeffrey Ferebee, class president, reminded his classmates upon arriving here on Reception Day in 2010 they were told it would be over before they knew it.

“Tonight, we may see some truth in that statement. Over the course of these four years, we’ve learned a lot and that’s an understatement,” Ferebee said. “Some of these lessons are more memorable than others.”

The one lesson that left an indelible mark on the class, Ferebee said, wasn’t taught on a training exercise at Camp Buckner or a classroom in Thayer Hall.

“The greatest lesson we learned was from one another—cooperate and graduate,” Ferebee said. “These words brought us here today. This is what makes the journey special to us—it’s the people around us.”

USMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. said when times are tough he can always turn to the Corps for motivation.

“All of you in this class motivate, energize and inspire not only me but the entire Corps,” Caslen said. “You have been a great class and will take an outstanding reputation into our Army. Thank you for your commitment over these many months … thank you for instilling the values of ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ into your very essence.”

Gen. Raymond Odierno, the 38th Army Chief of Staff and Class of 1976 graduate, delivered the banquet address and spoke about the Army these new second lieutenants will lead.

“You are entering the Army at a time in which the security environment is more uncertain than I have ever known,” Odierno said. “The threats are in the headlines every day, from unrest in the Ukraine and Crimea, to aggressive behavior by North Korea or Iran, to turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa. And we must continue to guard against threats to our own soil. This is our responsibility to ensure no one again attacks the United States.”

Odierno said the leaders of today’s Army must be competent leaders of character who are critical and creative thinkers, quick to understand and adapt to the strategic environment within which they will operate.

“Our Army will continue to be involved in critical national security missions around the world,” he said. “You will do so as lieutenants and as captains just a short time after graduating. You will never know when you will become the face of American commitment.”

Odierno said there are currently 148,000 Soldiers deployed or forward-stationed from Africa to Korea and the Philippines, to Jordan and Afghanistan, and units in the Baltic states epitomize the Regionally Engaged, Globally Responsive Army they will join.

U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. addressed the Class of 2014 during the graduation banquet May 27 and thanked the cadets for providing the motivation and energy to the Corps.
(Above) Class of 2014 Cadet Warren Geary, ring and crest committee chairperson, and (Right) Class of 2014 Cadet Lindsey Danilack, brigade commander, raise their glasses during the toasts at the graduation banquet. 
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the 38th Army Chief of Staff and U.S. Military Academy Class of 1976 graduate, spoke to the Class of 2014 during the graduation banquet inside Washington Hall May 27. 

On the home front, they must ensure Soldiers are trained and performing to high standards, and in times of transition and downsizing, leadership is essential.

“As the Army downsizes, we need leaders with vision, who are not afraid of innovation; leaders who can quickly adapt to changing situations and environments,” Odierno said. “We need leaders at all levels that efficient and effective.”

“You will be part of evolutionary change as we create an Army that is expeditionary. The Army will be more leaner and more flexible; it will be regionally and globally responsive. You will help us develop new concepts fueled by changing environments and supplied by technical innovations.”

Since 9/11, the Army has deployed nearly 1.5 million Soldiers, with more than 4,900 killed and over 36,000 wounded in action. Soldiers have earned more than 16,000 medals of valor to include 10 Medals of Honor, 28 Distinguished Service Crosses and 715 Silver Stars.

“Despite their achievements, they remain some of the most humble individuals you will ever meet, believing they were simply doing what other Soldiers would do—their duty,” Odierno said. “This is the Army in which you will lead. These facts should not intimidate you. They should inspire you.”

Odierno also spoke of leading with integrity, reinforcing the ethics around trust and respect.

“The foundation of our profession is centered on trust; trust between Soldiers, trust between Soldiers and leaders, and trust between the Army and the American people,” Odierno said. “Your Class Motto is ‘Forever One Team’ and it will take each and every one of you trusting one another, regardless of background or creed, to build a better future. Our nation is counting on you to protect its values and its freedoms.”

Odierno told the class that individuals are defined by character, and as leaders, theirs will be tested every day.

“Class of 2014, it will take every measure of competence and commitment to forge ahead,” he said. “And above all it will take character. Character to take care of your Soldiers; character to stand up for what is right and character to lead from the front and earn the respect of your Soldiers. As I stand here today and once again look out at all of you, it reminds me of how incredibly proud I am to be a graduate of this institution. I’m incredibly proud of the Class of 2014 who will, tomorrow, join the Long Gray Line and forever live the values of ‘Duty, Honor, Country.’”