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211th OBC Graduation Speech

 

 

 
 
   
   
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COL Jerrett W. Dunlap Jr. speaks to the 211th OBC graduating class inside Decker auditorium at TJAGLCS.

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On 2 July 2020, the outgoing Dean at The Judge Advocate General’s School, Colonel (COL) Jerrett W. Dunlap Jr., addressed the 211th Officer Basic Course (OBC) graduating class. This was COL Dunlap’s final duty as Dean before he departed to become the Staff Judge Advocate, V Corps, Fort Knox, Kentucky.

The staff and faculty are proud of the discipline, motivation, and grit you have demonstrated during this very challenging period. You spent most of your time largely isolated, without the daily face-to-face interaction with staff and faculty that has been a staple of the OBC for generations. We have missed this interaction as we enjoy spending time with you.

Army training is often designed to create a crucible experience, one that tests your limits and builds your confidence once complete. Although unplanned, the majority of your time with us has been a crucible experience that has tested your discipline, motivation, and grit. I’m proud of you for excelling at all three.

Earlier this week, Brigadier General Joseph Berger spoke to you about the Army Ethic. Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22, Army Leadership and the Profession,1 the doctrinal foundation of leadership in the Army, describes the Army Ethic as “the Heart of the Army”2 and the seven Army Values as “the practical application of the Army Ethic.”3 I want to talk about the third of the Army Values: Respect—treat people as they should be treated.

Army doctrine teaches, “The Army Values reinforce that all people have dignity and worth and must be treated with respect.”4 This type of respect refers not only to military rank structure, which calls for us to respect the position and authority of those superior to us in rank. More importantly, it refers to the basic human dignity of all people. Our “Nation was founded on the ideal that all are created equal. In the Army, each is judged on the content of their character. Army leaders should consistently foster a climate that treats everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, creed, or religious belief.”5 Leaders searching for how to execute this ideal need look no further than APD 6-22, which explains: “Fostering a positive climate begins with a leader’s personal example. Leaders treat others, including adversaries, with respect.”6

The legal education you have received is designed to ensure these ideals are put into practice. Whether it is court-martial procedure, the law of armed conflict, equal opportunity, or the myriad of topics you have studied, they are centered around fostering a climate that treats everyone with dignity and respect.

As with any aspirational ideal, we fall short as individuals, as an Army, and as a nation. The current national struggle is an example of the importance of respect and the price we pay when we fail to treat people the way they should be treated.7 We should continually strive to change as individuals, as an Army, and as a nation to live our ideals.

My friend, noted Army War College historian and retired Marine Corps F-18 pilot Colonel (Col) Doug Douds, recently appeared in the History Channel’s miniseries on the life of Ulysses S. Grant, based on Ron Chernow’s book.8 Colonel Douds recently wrote an opinion piece entitled, “There’s a Little Grant in All of Us.”9 Colonel Douds says it’s easy to gloss over the hard aspects of Grant’s life and focus on the victories, his rise to lieutenant general (the first since George Washington—that is my mandatory Washington reference). But there is much to learn from Grant’s many imperfections and his struggle to overcome them. Colonel Douds says:

Grant is an imperfect person who lived in an imperfect time. He is human. He has issues with his father and father-in-law—one an abolitionist, one a slave owner. He infamously struggled with alcohol whenever separated from his beloved family. He failed at multiple vocations and possessed a terrible business sense. All these render Grant more ordinary than extraordinary.10

Then Col Douds gives us the lesson we need to learn: “Peering into the past at the sum of a person like Grant gives insights to ourselves and our own time. . . . He reminds us that failure is not final. It never has been in the United States.”11 Highlighting Grant’s infinitely relatable, even mundane, struggles and shortcomings and understanding that he—like us—had problematic relationships, and made several career missteps, makes a success story like Grant’s military service accessible to us. “Struggle and failure are necessary components of learning and developing stores of resilience that enable us to bounce back in the face of setbacks,”12 Col Douds explains. Knowing those details, those very ordinary-life moments in an ultimately great historical figure’s life, helps us work through our own setbacks to keep striving for success. And, as Col Douds points out, we need those reminders: “Grant reminds us that those daily struggles prepare us for crisis.”13

Colonel Douds’s words remind us that struggle—crucible experiences—can give us the grit we need to change our selves, change our Army, and change our nation. That change starts with respecting ourselves and respecting others.

Respect requires that we treat people as they should be treated. “In the Soldier’s Code, we pledge to ‘treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same.’”14 We are taught that “[r]espect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people. Respect is trusting that all people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty.”15 Granting people this type of trust is an important form of respect. Finally, we must strive to respect ourselves to bring out the best in ourselves and our teammates. “Self-respect is a vital ingredient with the Army value of respect, which results from knowing you have put forth your best effort. The Army is one team, and each of us has something to contribute.”16 This fundamental recognition that each of us has intrinsic value to a team is the foundation of the Army Value of Respect.

The Army, and particularly the JAG Corps, values people as our greatest weapons system. Our Soldiers, Civilians, and our Families are an indispensable part of the greater JAG Corps Family. As members of the JAG Corps Family, we must strive to treat others with dignity and respect and expect the same of others.

The members of the 211th Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course are the bright future to whom we look to continue to develop and change as individuals, as an Army, and as a nation. I challenge you to take your great reputation of discipline, motivation, and grit to your next assignment and change that team. As you do, you will continue to set yourself apart as Soldiers and leaders. I’m proud of you for a job well done. TAL

 



Notes

1. U.S. Dep’t of Army, Doctrine Pub. 6-22, Army Leadership and the Profession (31 July 2019) (C1, 25 Nov. 2019) [hereinafter ADP 6-22].

2. Id. fig. 1-2.

3. Id. para. 1-70.

4. Id. para. 2-8.

5. Id.

6. Id.

7. See, e.g., David French, America’s Racial Progress, Nat’l Rev. (July 9, 2020, 11:48 AM), https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2020/07/27/americas-racial-progress/.

8. Grant, History Channel (2020) (drawing largely from Ron Chernow’s 2017 book, Grant).

9. Colonel Douglas Douds, There’s a Little Grant in All of Us, pennlive.com (June 24, 2020), https://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2020/06/theres-a-little-grant-in-all-of-us-opinion.html.

10. Id.

11. Id.

12. Id.

13. Id.

14. Army Values, Army.mil, https://www.army.mil/values/index.html (last visited July 23, 2020).

15. Id.

16. Id.