From left, Michael Berdela, Lindsay Grubish '07, Aaron Oswald, Lehigh President Alice P. Gast, Michael Tier, Gen. George Casey, Seth Power, Courtenay Cullen '07, and Dane Hanson.
Gen. George Casey visited Lehigh University May 20 to attend the ceremony for the commissioning of seven area cadets, including two 2007 Lehigh graduates, to the rank of Second Lieutenant in the United States Army.
Casey, the highest-ranking U.S. Army officer, put the seven brand new officers at ease by confessing that on the morning of his own commissioning, he was held up at a barber’s shop and arrived late.
“You’re all better off on your first day as an officer than I was,” Casey said.
Casey, the newly appointed Chief of Staff of the Army, certainly has overcome that long ago tardiness. He graduated from Georgetown University in 1970, and was also commissioned through ROTC. He has served all over the world, and prior to being confirmed as the 36th Chief of Staff of the Army, he was the commander of the Multinational Force in Iraq. He holds a masters degree in international relations from the University of Denver.
When Casey began his career, he had no aspirations to become the Chief of Staff. “I was going to serve my two years, get out, and go to law school,” the general said. “But when I got to my first unit, I fell in love with the Army.”
“Some of the best advice that was given to me was, ‘Be yourself,’” Casey told the graduates. “This candor builds trust, and trust holds an organization together.”
Casey exemplified his own advice, arriving early to Packer Chapel and introducing himself simply as “George Casey” to cadets and their family members. He smiled, and put cadets at ease as they stood in awe before the highest ranking officer in the Army. Casey is the uncle of one of the lieutenants from Lehigh, Courtenay Cullen ’07. In her brief speech after being commissioned, she referred to him as “Uncle George.”
Cullen will be working with the Army Corps of Engineers, while Lindsey Grubish ’07, has received a deferment to go to medical school. Once she completes medical school, she will be an Army doctor.
During the keynote address, Casey encouraged the new lieutenants to focus on four aspects of leadership: courage, commitment, candor, and confidence. He explained that it is important for young leaders to understand the complexity of the situation in Iraq.
“It is in those complex and uncertain environments where leaders make their money. It takes immense courage for a leader to act in an environment like that,” he said.
Casey predicted that the United States will be engaged in a decade of persistent conflict.
“We are under attack from a ruthless transnational terrorist organization,” he said. He encouraged the new lieutenants to fight for the very values that define the Army, and this nation.
“We are the best army in the world because of our values, because of our ethos, and because of our people,” he said.
Casey emphasized the weightiness of their new responsibility. “You are entering a brotherhood and sisterhood of over 200 years,” he said. “You will be accepted by your soldiers because of those who have gone before you, and you need to carry that tradition on.”
“I am quite confident in the quality of the leaders coming out of ROTC,” Casey said. “We need to continue to draw our leaders from a variety of institutions. The diversity of our leadership is one of the great strengths of the Army.”