Academic journal article Naval War College Review

"The Greatest Deeds Are Yet to Be Done"

Academic journal article Naval War College Review

"The Greatest Deeds Are Yet to Be Done"

Article excerpt

It is customary in commencement speeches to say something about the dynamic world that graduates are about to enter and how that change is going to affect their lives. But that traditional message does not work on this occasion, with this audience. You are graduating, but you are certainly not commencing. "To commence," after all, is "to begin." When you return to your fleet or to your units you will not be beginning a brand-new career. You will be going back to the noble profession to which you have chosen to dedicate your lives. But you will be going back enriched by what you have learned here and by what you will continue to learn with the tools that you have acquired here.

There have been dramatic changes in the world during your year at the Naval War College, particularly in the world of the military. You will be going back to operational assignments having had a chance to study those developments from a critical perspective. Your study here has prepared you to bring fresh ideas to the dynamic process of innovation that is under way in our military today.

One of the most significant elements that you observed was the battle of Iraq. I expect that, like the rest of the country, you were glued to televisions for much of March and April. The battlefield-or what we should more correctly call "the battle space"-is the ultimate classroom for your profession, and we are still learning the lessons from those crucial weeks. But some of those lessons are already obvious, and they indicate lasting changes in the way the U.S. armed forces will operate in the future.

Some of the changes that led to these lessons have been in the works for quite a long time. I am sure that many of you have contributed to those changes. But in the last year the whole world has had a chance-thanks in part to yet another innovation, the concept of embedded reporters-to see what they are, and the effect has been dramatic.

The first has been the application of new networking and communications technologies, which have taken the integration of air and ground forces to an entirely new level and have given our soldiers and Marines on the ground nearly instantaneous access to precision air support. The presence of those brave soldiers and Marines in turn enabled our long-range striking power to find targets with precision. That too represents a quantum leap. Precision weapons are only good if you have precision targeting; we can now combine the two in dramatic new ways.

That new capability, in turn, enabled our ground forces to advance at an astonishing speed over distances far exceeding those of DESERT STORM. It also made possible the use of Special Forces on a scale that would have been difficult to conceive of in the past. More than a hundred Special Forces "A teams" were deployed throughout Iraq in this conflict. That in turn led to the disappearance of a "front" in the traditional sense, to be replaced by the concept of battle space.

We also saw some remarkable organizational innovations. Who would have imagined a conventional tank unit under the command of a Special Forces lieutenant colonel? Or the first-ever combined forces land component commander, integrating Army, Marine Corps, and coalition forces in a single, brilliant land combat campaign?

We saw revolutionary application of new technologies, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and hit-to-kill antimissile systems. So the question is not whether you in the audience today will adapt to these changes. I have no doubt that you will. You are professionals. The real question is whether the organizations that we work in will adapt as well.

But adapt they must. The world has changed, both technologically and politically. The armed forces that many of you joined were organized to fight an enemy that no longer exists, along boundaries that were fixed and identifiable. Our enemy today does not have those attributes. He is elusive and often invisible. …

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