This Sunday, the United States will celebrate an inconspicuous but critically important occasion: 245 years since the Continental Army formed under the command of Gen. George Washington on June 14, 1775. Its creation united the 13 colonies in their fight against British forces and was a major turning point in our country’s early narrative.
The Army Birthday is an opportunity to remember that for the last two and a half centuries, our nation has looked to the Army for strength and inspiration in times of crisis and uncertainty. Today is no different, as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and are engaged in difficult conversations on racial divisions. Because the Army is a reflection of American society, we also reflect its challenges and imperfections, which we are committed to addressing at Aberdeen Proving Ground and across the force.
I am happy to say APG is meeting its mission through COVID-19. As the Army’s home of innovation, our efforts cannot pause, even in a global pandemic. Our situation is stable thanks to determined work from the APG Garrison, Kirk Army Health Clinic, the Army Public Health Center, safety professionals and other APG organizations led by some of the Army’s leading minds in disease control. APG organizations are also contributing to the Army’s whole-of-nation approach to fight COVID-19, which you can read about at apgnews.com and Army.mil/coronavirus.
Of course, sacrifices and adjustments have been necessary. APG remains at Health Protection Condition CHARLIE, which indicates sustained community transmission. Most of our workforce is teleworking, residents are practicing physical distancing and installation access is limited. However, senior leaders are planning how we will bring our workforce back to APG. When that occurs, we will use a phased, conditions-based approach in keeping with Department of the Army policies.
All of these COVID-19 efforts are made possible by people, the Army’s greatest strength and No. 1 priority. And the upheaval in our communities impacts all of us. When they enter a career of service, Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians commit to the seven Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. While we have sometimes fallen short, the Army has earned the trust of the nation because of our adherence to those values and our sacred pledge to treat everyone with dignity.
Although the Army is non-political, we know racial divisions erode that trust. Accordingly, the Army has instructed its leaders at all levels to proactively engage their people, ask the hard questions, and empower everyone to feel comfortable expressing concerns. As APG senior commander, I must be the first to set that example of leading with compassion and humility. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
When they join, Soldiers and civilians also take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. That includes the right to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. On this Army Birthday and every one in the future, we will support and defend those rights. We will continue to protect Americans, whether from enemies overseas, COVID-19 at home, or violence in communities that diminishes the voices of those peacefully crying out for change.
Thank you for your partnership and support for APG and the Army. As Gen. Colin Powell once said, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” Our nation has overcome numerous challenges in its storied past and emerged stronger. I am confident we will see the same outcome in 2020 and beyond.