Dear West Point Class of 2020,
I'm here to present a different viewpoint from the 700 Old Grads who wrote to you with concern about how, yet another group of Old Grads conducts themselves as senior leaders under President Trump. I'm not a fan of groupthink. These opinions are mine and mine alone.
First, you've just spent four years, living, breathing, eating, and sleeping — Duty, Honor, Country. Trust in your training. Trust your gut to the point that you don't need outside opinions; mine, the 700, or anyone else's telling you how to conduct yourself. I, for one, have faith you will make good choices and do the right things in the years to come.
Second, I will tell you something; hopefully, you've heard before. Credit goes to the person who is in the arena bearing the brunt of the fight. Not to the hecklers on the sidelines. Anybody can be a critic; it's not hard to do. Being an armchair quarterback doesn't take any talent.
Third, as I continue, this letter will be from an extremely practical and real-world viewpoint. I will tell you that if you are going to be on a team, you have to follow the rules of the person in charge of the team. Everyone has a boss, and while in the military, you should plan on doing as the boss tells you unless you know for a fact it is an unlawful order.
Fourth, you'll always have a boss. Unless you are God, you are always working for someone else. The Chief of Staff of the Army works for the President. The President works for the American people. You cannot escape the boss paradigm by leaving the military either. In the business world, you'll have a boss, and if you don't like doing things their way, they will be happy to promote you to customer. Even CEOs report to board members and stockholders. In the event you start your own business, you'll be working for your customers, go ahead and don't do what they want and see how that works out for you. Hopefully, you will work for leaders who are willing to listen to your opinion, but don't fool yourself into thinking that that is required of any boss. It can just as easily be their way or the highway.
Fifth, should you reach a point where your gut tells you something is wrong, and you cannot stomach it anymore, choose carefully. Because eventually, the situation will pass, and you need to ask yourself, in the long run, is the Army better off with you or without you. Without you, that's the end of your ability to lead missions and take care of Soldiers. Do you think the person who replaces you will do a better job? I'm telling you this as an Old Grad who fell on his sword as a Captain derailing my career. Like that old Looney Toons episode where Daffy blows himself up, it's a trick you can only do once. There's no going back, no do-overs, I managed to eke out a twenty-three-year career, but for me, it could easily have been the end of the road.
Sixth, for a bunch that preaches being apolitical, the 700 sure sound political. That's just me thinking out loud. With today's world being as polarized as it is, it's hard not to have an opinion. My only recommendation here is not to wear your political views on your sleeve while in the military.
Seventh, good luck and God speed. Regardless of your politics, I'm pulling for you.
Dennis, USMA '90
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