Dunford Urges West Point Graduates to Embrace Change

West Point graduates toss their caps into the air at the end of graduation ceremonies at the U.S. Military Academy on Saturday, May 26, at West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
West Point graduates toss their caps into the air at the end of graduation ceremonies at the U.S. Military Academy on Saturday, May 26, at West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy on Saturday to "embrace the constant changes" facing the military as the best route to success.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the nation's highest-ranking military officer, said armies that are slow to adapt to changes often find themselves on the wrong side of history.

"There's no substitute for taking a clear-eyed look at the threats we'll face and asking how our force will adapt to meet those threats," said Dunford, who became chairman in October 2015. "To be successful, you have to anticipate and embrace the constant changes."

He urged the almost 950 West Point cadets who were commissioned as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army during the ceremony at the academy's football stadium to challenge themselves to be the kind of leaders who continually think about change, especially in a world where "the pace of change and the speed of war has greatly accelerated."

His remarks came at a ceremony that featured among its graduates the first black woman to lead the Long Gray Line.

Simone Askew of Fairfax, Virginia, assumed duties last year as first captain of the 4,400-member Corps of Cadets, the highest position in the cadet chain of command.

Dunford recalled that leaders on both sides in World War I were slow to grasp the significance of emerging technologies and the changing character of war, resulting in horrifying losses on the battlefields in France.

Throughout history, he said, most changes occur only "after significant failure."

An exception came in the years before the Vietnam War, when men who had graduated from West Point considered how the helicopter might be deployed to enhance mobility on the battlefield.

"They fundamentally changed Army maneuvers, and their ideas remain relevant today," Dunford said.

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