- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2009

LEXINGTON, Va. | The nation needs military leaders who are disciplined, innovative and have integrity like those trained at the Virginia Military Institute, the head of the U.S. Central Command told graduating cadets Saturday.

“I would submit that now, more than ever, our nation and our world need leaders like those developed here,” Army Gen. David Petraeus said in a commencement address to 249 seniors at the state-supported military school in Lexington.

The school’s superintendent, Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, said 131 of the graduates will go into military service.

About half of the school’s graduates typically enter the military, but “that percentage in a time of war is especially commendable,” Gen. Peay said.

Gen. Petraeus praised the courage of those who decided to serve, knowing they likely will be sent to a combat zone. He said their duties will be challenging.

“The frustrations of many of the situations with which leaders deal in combat is real and constant,” he said.

One of the graduates, Andrew Krumm of the Eastern Shore of Virginia, said he has been assigned to the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. He expects to be sent to Afghanistan, and he said he is ready to go.

“I’ve been watching [war] unfold for four years,” he said. “I finally get a chance to do my part.”

Gen. Petraeus took over as head of American military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia in October. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and has held leadership positions in airborne, mechanized and air assault infantry units in Europe and the U.S.

The general recalled that Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was “relentless and determined” despite suffering huge losses on the first day of the Battle of Shiloh, and said those qualities are still the hallmark of soldiers with initiative.

But Gen. Petraeus added that having courage and initiative are not enough for military leaders.

“Never forget that lives will depend on your being not just a selfless, dedicated, energetic leader, but a proficient one as well,” Gen. Petraeus told the seniors.

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