By Major Joseph A. Jackson
General Colin Powell's recent visit to the Command and General Staff College reminded us that history, if not repetitive, is at least parallel in its dimensions. To fully grasp what leadership and the concept of a life spent in service to the Nation means, one need look no further than to the laurels and accomplishments that mark General Powell's service. However, as General Powell mentioned, the attainment of accolades, high office, and material rewards reflect the simple, timeless, and real values that underpin our institution at the Command and General Staff College.
A veteran of two tours in Vietnam, General Powell shared the insights imparted by his journey through history. Then, as now, CGSC stands as a bastion of learning in turbulent and ambiguous times. Our institution does not promise that academics alone or a single methodology will ever triumph; rather it proposes that capable individuals grounded in relevant axioms can hone their mental agility and will deduce the clearest path to shape successful outcomes. We know that our values -- Army Values -- of which General Powell spoke, work because we have seen them in action. The values that were in instilled when General Powell's class was in attendance then do not vary greatly from those we promulgate now. The testing grounds for these values are the rotations between Iraq and Afghanistan in places with names that sound decidedly foreign here in the Midwest -- Kabul, Ghardez, Baghdad, and Ar Ramadi. Forty years ago, Hue, Be Luong, and the A-Shau Valley of General Powell's experience would have sounded equally as exotic. Conflict forces us to re-evaluate and reinvigorate ourselves with our core principles despite the time or place.
General Powell's words and his selection of topics resonate beyond the vaulted ceilings of Eisenhower Auditorium. They resound in the classrooms where we students remain hard at work solving fictitious problems for service in a world of often cold, hard facts. Succinctly, General Powell charged us to remember that just as those leaders who preceded us, we serve in a time of great challenge. The challenges that General Powell's generation faced were a nation divided politically over the morality of the war in Vietnam and a culture further separated by racial tensions. Today, we are a society wrestling with the moral issues of a protracted war abroad, domestic border security issues, and financial insecurity at home.
Yet, as tomorrow's senior leaders, we see equally that along with these difficult issues there is great opportunity. As students we recognize that the dilemmas we face are not necessarily unique to our time but have parallels in our military history. The United States and its Officer Corps continue to serve as a model and a beacon for others to follow. Further, we acknowledge that we are a resilient and dynamic culture that prizes the timeless values of equality and the rule of law. Finally, General Powell's visit reminds us to acknowledge that the common sense values of our institutions mirror the uncommon experience that is our composite American culture.
Major Joseph A. Jackson, US Army, is a student at the US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.