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Cadets Learn Life Lessons and Inclusion Through Stories of Thriving in Chaos

By: Mariyah Wojcik

Cadets listen to guest speaker, Maj. Gen. Walter Piatt, at Olive Theater on July 13, 2015. U.S. Army Photo by Jenny Hale.

FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY (July 13, 2015) – It is the ability to inspire others that creates a legacy. More than one’s own service, it is crucial that the next generation of Army officers understands the challenges they will face moving forward, not just from outside threats, but from within themselves as well.

Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of operations, readiness, and mobilization for the U.S. Army, spoke to cadets in the 4th regiment of CLC and CIET summer training about using the skills they learn throughout their college career to better their Soldiers and themselves in stressful situations.

Piatt became an enlisted Soldier in 1979 and commissioned as an officer in 1987. Prior to working at the Pentagon, Piatt served as U.S. Army Europe’s deputy commanding general. Through 36 years of service, Piatt is uniquely qualified to illustrate to cadets the kind of complex decision making that is required for success.

“Training prepares us for the expected,” said Piatt. “Education prepares you for the unexpected. Everywhere I’ve been I’ve faced the unexpected. Regardless of what you see tomorrow, it will not be what you see today. There are no answers to today’s problems in the past. You have to see what is, not what you want it to be.”

Through short stories that demonstrated leadership skills, Piatt allowed the cadets to have a glimpse into what it is really like to have to make the complex decisions of an officer every day.

Cadets pose for photos prior to the beginning of Maj. Gen. Piatt’s speech. U.S. Army photo by Jenny Hale.

“You can follow the manual, you can do everything on the checklist, but the outcome can still be terribly wrong,” said Piatt. “This training is your foundation, not all the answers. That control in the most chaotic of circumstances makes a great leader. It didn’t come from this initial training or wherever a Soldier went to basic. It comes from the way they were raised and the community they grew up in.”

Piatt underlined his concerns about the future of our nation, as he can see the national deficit is causing major spending cuts for defense programs. Modernization of technology and keeping Soldiers in areas of the world where they are still needed are paramount in Piatt’s opinion.

“It really struck me when he talked about being humble, and being able to work with and learn from your Soldiers,” said Cadet Ryan Kyle Malouff, who attends The Citadel. “I liked the discussion about compromises, and how two people should win each other over with their individual arguments, rather than compromising to the detriment of the mission.”

Focus on a single task, and extending trust and respect before demanding it were critical skills that Piatt wished he had mastered as a young officer, and the cadets in the audience were encouraged to do so at an early stage in their careers. Inclusion of those from all walks of life is a critical component of this task.

Cadet Ryan Kyle Malouff, with fellow cadets, listens to Maj. Gen. Piatt’s speech. U.S. Army photo by Jenny Hale.

“At The Citadel there are very few women,” said Malouff. “I am proud of the Army for introducing more women into combat arms, and when I head back to school I am going to work on convincing my fellow cadets that women are a valuable addition, and that treating them with equal respect upholds Army values.”

With the benefit of having heard the challenges and difficulties that Piatt faced, these young cadets move forward wiser and ready to apply lessons learned to their current and future duties.

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Mariyah Wojcik

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