2012 Sylvanus Thayer Award
The profession of arms is more than just a profession, it is a calling, said the Honorable Isaac “Ike” Skelton, former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Upon receiving the 2012 Sylvanus Thayer Award at a banquet in his honor, Skelton thanked the Corps of Cadets assembled at Washington Hall Oct. 18 for their dedication and willingness to serve in this profession.
It was a calling Skelton was unable to answer. As a student at Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Mo, his dream was to enter the U.S. Military Academy and serve in the Army. Polio prevented that dream from happening. During his 34 years serving the constituents of Missouri in the House of Representatives, Skelton said it was his honor to appoint others to West Point in their pursuit of joining that profession.
“The purpose of this profession is to protect and maintain a secure America,” Skelton said. “No calling is more important to your fellow countrymen, and your West Point experience will prepare you well to serve our country in years ahead.”
That calling, he said, will present many challenges for the nation’s military, both overseas and at home, where they may potentially face foreign aggressors, cyber-warfare and domestic disasters.
“You will join a military that will be returning home after more than 11 years of conflict; many servicemembers returning from deployment will be tired, and many will be mature beyond their years,” Skelton said.
He urged cadets to take advantage of the opportunities to learn from battlefield veterans which will improve them as officers and strenghten them as Soldiers.
Through 17 terms in the House of Representatives, Skelton had come to know many West Point graduates and witness the growth of the profession of arms. He recommended six principles to the Corps to help guide them in their careers:
•Understand the Constitution
•Become a student of the art of war
•Take care of your troops and their families
•Do your best to be proficient in your specialty
•Take time with your family
•Listen to your sergeants.
“During the sunrise of my life, it was my dream to come to West Point,” Skelton concluded. “That did not happen. But now, as the sun dips toward the sunset, I am at West Point. No graduate with brand new second lieutenant bars could be more thrilled than I.”
The Thayer Award was presented to Skelton by Association of Graduates Chairman Jodie Glore and USMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr.
Huntoon described Skelton as gifted and strategic spokesman for American values who was a stalwart advocate for the armed forces in Congress.
“Congressman Skelton authored many of the most significant pieces of legislation involving defense issues in the past half century,” Huntoon said. “He was a principle architect of the groundbreaking Goldwater-Nichols Act that revolutionized the concept of joint service in the Department of Defense and led to much of the extraordinary success of the armed forces in the past 25 years.”
“He was the leading authority in the United States Congress on professional military education, and a devoted and dedicated military historian whose reading lists are standard in our staff colleges and senior service colleges,” Huntoon added.
Huntoon also conveyed a personal message to Skelton from the Honorable John M. McHugh, secretary of the Army:
“I think of you with great admiration as I recall your legacy of leadership and the difference you have made for our military and for our country. You consistently put the needs of our service men and women first, ensuring they have the necessary tools to successfully confront the domestic and foreign challenges our nation has faced. Thank you for all you have done for our Army.”
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