“A Farewell to the Profession of Arms”

  • Published
  • By CMSgt Bruce Collins
  • 127 Maintenance Squadron
Over 50 years ago General Douglas MacArthur gave his farewell speech to the Corp of Cadets at West Point. I believe some of his words are worthy of repeating and are still applicable to our profession today. I have picked out some excerpts to share.

General MacArthur writes;

"Duty, Honor, Country:"

I will inject Integrity, Service, and Excellence; as you know these are the Core Values of the United States Air Force in our Little Blue Book which states;

"The values are road signs inviting us to consider key features of the requirements of professional service, but they cannot hope to point to or pick out everything. By examining integrity, service, and excellence, we also eventually discover the importance of duty, honor, country, dedication, fidelity, competence, and a host of other professional requirements and attributes."

Gen MacArthur continues;

"Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and, I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.

They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for action; not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm, but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future, yet never neglect the past; to be serious, yet never take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness; the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

They give you a temperate will, a quality of imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman."

Our three words, Integrity, Service, Excellence, these are our CORE VALUES. We need to weave them into each and every day. They should be in your every thought, in your every action, in your every decision, because without them you will not be an effective leader.

Gen MacArthur continues;

"The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong. The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training - sacrifice. In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him. However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country, is the noblest development of mankind.

Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory, that if you lose, the Nation will be destroyed, that the very obsession of your public service must be Duty, Honor, Country."

General MacArthur's words back in 1962 are still true today. We are in the very serious, and now very global, Profession of Arms. We are the Guardians of Freedom and Justice. We are the Nations, if not the Worlds, Sword and Shield. You are the less than 1% that have answered our Nation's call to provide 100% of America's peace and security. The citizens of this land will never realize the value they are getting from the men and women in uniform that serve them faithfully each hour of everyday; nor should we ever forget the ultimate sacrifice of those who have fallen.

I have had the great joy of serving with the finest and bravest that America has produced. I have had the honor to serve with the greatest, the most noble, and the always humble Airmen that have ever served in uniform. It has been a remarkable career and I had every opportunity to make the most of it...and I did. As I bid a "Farewell to the Profession of Arms" I impart to you all much peace and happiness and I thank you for your devoted service to these United States of America. God Bless.