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The right officer--at the right time.

Dr. James G. Roche, secretary of the Air Force

Remarks at the assumption of command ceremony, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo., July 9, 2003

Thank you Johnny [Brigadier General John Weida] for your kind words and gracious introduction. I am sure that no one is happier that today has finally come than you are, but rest assured John, I am a close second as is my partner General John Jumper.

On a day as pleasant as this, given the alternative of a hot, muggy Washington summer's day, it is genuinely a pleasure to be here, especially when it is for the purpose of introducing to the Air Force Academy community a man of tremendous character and demonstrated leadership. I am honored to officiate at this assumption of command. And, I do so representing as well my partner, General John Jumper, who unfortunately is unable to be here today, but is here in spirit because we are both very proud of General John Rosa.

General Rosa has the full faith and confidence of this nation's leadership. He is assuming one of the most important commands for the future of our Air Force; it is to him I address my hopes and concerns for this institution and his command.

The Air Force Academy is charged with the critical mission of transforming the extraordinary sons and daughters of America who cross this terrazzo into future leaders of our Air Force. Into your hands, General, the leadership of the Air Force and this nation places our most valuable resources, the young people at this institution. As Lieutenant General Hubert Harmon said at the formation of the Air Force Academy: "The academy's tong-range mission will be to train generals, not second lieutenants." This is one of our nation's top commissioning sources--where officer candidates are carefully screened not only for the essential qualities of a good officer, but also those of a good leader. While there are some rare individuals who are born with the innate qualities of a leader, even for these people, these qualities must be nurtured and developed in an environment that fosters respect for others, mutual cooperation, and adherence to the core values of our service:--integrity, service, and excellence. Your charge sir is to cultivate the climate that will encourage all to put forth their best efforts and to succeed.

The job description of the Superintendent of the Air Force Academy is very succinct. "The Superintendent is responsible for overall strategic leadership and planning at the United States Air Force Academy." That single line carries a great deal of responsibility--responsibility not only for the leadership of the cadets, faculty, and staff currently here, but for the shape of the strategic development of leadership and character training that will affect the entire Air Force for years to come. Make no mistake, leadership and character training at this institution affects us all. With this command, you bear a heavy burden, but one for which your experience, training, and character have prepared you.

In addition to developing leaders through "leadership training," this institution provides the foundation, "the power of knowledge," which will sustain the flight of each cadet through his or her life as an officer and beyond. As John F. Kennedy once said, "Leadership and Learning are indispensable to each other." This is an institution of learning as well as training, a chance for growing minds, to probe the limits of their reasoning ability and to challenge conventional wisdom, to learn the skills of critical thinking that will allow them to probe the chinks in any enemy's armor, to think "outside of the box," breaking down stovepipes and artificial barriers that prevent our ability to deliver the most decisive effects, regardless of who gets credit; and to develop the necessary skills of team deliberation--listening brilliantly, as well as speaking wisely. This is an institution that embraces the spirit of academic pursuit, and one that encourages young people to push beyond their comfort zone, to explore new frontiers, and to take intellectual risks within the safety of the academic environment. It is a careful balance: to encourage academic excellence and maintain military good order and discipline. The two are far from mutually exclusive, but they must be carefully monitored and the equilibrium maintained. After all, our citizens entrust "special trust and confidence" in the graduates whom we commission.

John, I know you have had experience with the tricky balance of academics in a military setting as Commandant of Air Command and Staff College. You have demonstrated your potential for this most important command, and John Jumper and I have every confidence that you will succeed.

And to you in the audience who will fall under General Rosa's command, or be otherwise affected by it, please allow me to explain why John Rosa is right for this critical leadership position--so right that he has been promoted from major general to lieutenant general in less than four months.

In the judgement of both General Jumper and myself, he is the right officer, at the right time, for this command. He is a man of proven leadership who has demonstrated his command effectiveness at the squadron, group and wing level, time and again. He is a three-time wing commander, a former commandant of the Air Command and Staff College at Air University, a man of impeccable character who comes with the highest recommendation from all with whom he has served. He has experienced the weighty responsibility of command, and has thrived under it. He was made to command.

He is a charismatic leader who, from the time he was, and I quote "a tall gangly kid who was not real strong, not real fast, and wasn't ready to play" end quote--I'm quoting his former football coach here--has demonstrated himself to be a natural leader on the fields of the Citadel and throughout the other fields of life he has crossed.

He is a dedicated family man, a devoted son who spends every Thanksgiving he can with his parents, and a loving husband to his college sweetheart. And I would like to offer a special welcome to Donna Rosa, who is also perfectly suited for the critical role she will play here at the Air Force Academy. John is a man of integrity who set high standards as the inspector general, and held all to the same standards. He is a man of compassion whose caring attitude extends beyond the confines of the military community. And he is the man who will lead this Academy to new heights.

Colin Powell, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and current Secretary of State, said of his time as a commander: "The most important thing I learned is that soldiers watch what their leaders do. You can give them classes and lecture them forever, but it is your personal behavior and example they will follow." In General Rosa, we have a leader who will provide the most positive of personal examples.

Congratulations to General Rosa on his assumption of command. Many thanks and a "well done" to General Weida and his lovely bride on the superb job they have done as acting superintendent. Godspeed and best of luck to you all! May God bless this institution, our great Air Force, and each and every one of you! Thank you.
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Title Annotation:Air Force secretary James G. Roche; appointment of Gen. John Rosa as Superintendent of the Air Force Academy
Publication:Air Force Speeches
Article Type:Transcript
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 9, 2003
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