Graduation Speech by: Maj. Gen. Patrick M. Higgins
“MG Sacolick, fellow general officers, distinguished guests, members, families and friends of the regiment, it is truly an honor to be here. I must say that I am quite humbled that you, among the finest patriots our nation has produced, would call me to muster here with you on this momentous occasion. I am, admittedly, overcome with a great deal of pride, pride in once again having an opportunity to stand amongst the finest warriors in the history of the nation. I have already had the opportunity to meet with some of you today, and even now as I scan this gruff and hardened band of brothers, I am thrilled to see that the vaunted halls of the John F. Kennedy special warfare school continue to build a special breed of men. Men, who stand ready to head into battle, make order from chaos and emerge victorious. And by so doing – liberate the oppressed!
Let me tell you all what you need to succeed in this sacred task: strength, courage, character and humility. These words help special meaning for me during my formulative years as a soldier, and have remained watchwords of duty throughout my 32 years of service.
Strength first, yes, the Army is the strength of our nation; and soldiers are the strength of our Army. Now this maxim cold seem too obvious to require statement, but there are few better than you here now, who can truly understand its value and its depth. The long, storied tradition of the legendary green berets began with just a few individuals who sought to strive to a higher standard of excellence in the profession of arms, and thereby, became more than they were. Now it is your turn. The Q Course required you to give of yourself and work together as a team, spending countless hours together in training minding every detail, perfecting every action. And through the common daily hardships, individually you became stronger, and the team became, stronger. Special Forces is a team of teams – responsive, innovative, agile, lethal, feared throughout the world- and only through carefully, arduously, ruthlessly building the strength of the individual green beret do we preserve the strength of the regiment. This is our tradition. This is who we are. Don’t forget you stand on the shoulders of those who have come before you.
And in this tradition we set the foundation upon which all of our character as operators is developed. I can tell you the many challenges I faced from my time on a detachment molded me as a leader. I learned that the detachment is the core building block of Special Forces and that all of our success hinges upon it and the character of its individual members. I have never lost sight of that fact and neither should you.
And these qualities are sorely needed today. For we live in a time of great consequence and change. The nation is at a critical point in its history; committed around the globe, the military continues to fight while simultaneously disengaging and reducing force structure. With the conclusion of combat operations in Iraq and the drawback of troop levels in Afghanistan, our military is beginning the transition to a peacetime force. And it is precisely because of all this welter of tumult that there has never been more of a demand signal for Special Forces. The world is a dangerous place and will continue to be so. Which is another way of saying “What a great time to be a Green Beret!” Whether it’s destroying terrorists networks, stabilizing lawless regions, or conducting humanitarian relief operations – rest assured, you are trained and read for tasking, and I have no doubt you will continue to bring honor and glory to our regiment.
The incredibly tough and demanding regimen or Special Forces training you have undergone has prepared you well for the challenges you will face. But remember- your training has really only just begun. Your country demands the most from you as leaders. Your regiment expects that no matter the task, no matter the environment, no matter the difficulty, you will always accomplish he mission.
There will be times when missions success seems elusive, complicated – the options unsatisfying. You will find as I have that sometimes there are no good options – just options that are better than others. Don’t worry about it – your courage (moral and physical), your intellect, and your 3 dimensional thought process will generate creative solutions on the battlefield. Remember that what you do or fail to do will set conditions for a framework of action at the highest levels and may redound at the stops of the white house.
In the coming lean times the twin tenets of special warfare: unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense will be at a premium in an era of dwindling resources. Make no mistake, to navigate through the uncertain conflicts of tomorrow, we must be able to deter and defeat aggression not only by ourselves, but “by with, and through” our allies and partner nations. And that means Special Forces. As operators you will be that the forefront of affecting this strategy.
Lastly, in everything you do, great and small, go about it with humility as a true quiet professional. I would be remiss not to take a moment to reflect upon the compact we here have all made with the American people through an oath to support and defend the US constitution. This compact is a sacred one – an there is no group of people who are more fully aware of all that comes with it as well as the gravity it entails, than you who stand before more now. Its dictates are those of duty, its code is not only legally binding, but moral as well, and its collateral is your very life. Your country relies on your patriotic conviction and dedication to defend what we hold sacred. By becoming a Green Beret you have joined a brotherhood – one that spurns a life of ease and accepts instead a life of challenge. Your road may be a hard one – but I promise you this, the journey along that road, and the destination will be worth it.
America’s Army is the best manned, best trained, best equipped, best led, and most decisive land force in the world. And the very best of the US Army is its special forces. You have strived, risen, excelled and now today you join that elite.
And now Green Berets, prepare for glory!
Class 268, as you go forth to your groups of assignment know that the hopes and dreams and aspirations of your countrymen and indeed, free people around the entire world, go with you. I wish you health, happiness and every success in all of your endeavors. Congratulations! And may God bless you all!
De Oppresso Liber!”