Secretary of the U.S. Army Mark T. Esper visited Virginia Tech on Friday, spending the afternoon talking with students in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and the Army ROTC New River Battalion.

The visit is the first in a series of stops for Esper as he visits three of the nation’s six senior military colleges in April and May. The Congressional designation is given to a campus that combines higher education with military instruction through a corps of cadets.

During his visit, Esper held a town hall meeting with the Corps of Cadets to reflect on the challenges cadets will face as young leaders in the military and talked with seniors preparing to commission as officers in the Army. He also met with President Tim Sands, Commandant of Cadets Maj. Gen. Randal Fullhart, and Professor of Military Science Col. Paul Mele, who oversees the Army ROTC program. 

“Whether you are planning to enter the Army, the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force, or you’re just on the Citizen-Leader Track, you will all be serving in positions of leadership one day soon. Fortunately for you, Virginia Tech has a proven track record of producing exceptional leaders for the nation,” Esper told cadets during the town hall meeting.

“Over the course of my professional career in the Army, on Capitol Hill, at the Pentagon, and in the private sector, I’ve seen many different types of leaders. And while leadership styles vary from person to person, there’s one important attribute, one quality, that all great leaders have in common — character.”

Leadership through character builds trust on teams and that leads to success, Esper said. He urged cadets to make sure that the values found on the Pylons — Brotherhood, Honor, Leadership, Sacrifice, Service, Loyalty, Duty, and Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) — are etched in their hearts when they leave campus, just like the names of our alumni who have died while in military service are etched those columns.

Secretary of the U.S. Army Mark T. Esper has lunch with cadets
Secretary of the U.S. Army Mark T. Esper has lunch with cadets in Army ROTC in Squires Student Center. Photo courtesy of the Secretary of the U.S. Army's Office.

“Secretary Esper’s insights into the future of the U.S. Army and his thoughts on leadership in our Army profession are invaluable toward our mission to train, develop, and inspire leaders of character,” Mele said. “We are grateful for the time he spent at Virginia Tech.”

The New River Battalion teaches and trains 421 cadets at Virginia Tech with 273 of them receiving Army scholarships valued at about $3 million each semester. The battalion also includes 57 cadets at Radford University.

Esper was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Nov. 15, 2017, and sworn in as the 23rd secretary of the U.S. Army on Nov. 20, 2017.

He has statutory responsibility for all matters relating to the Army, including the recruitment, organization, training, equipping, and care of 1.4 million active duty, National Guard and Reserve soldiers and Department of the Army civilian employees.

Col. Paul Mele, at left, watches as Cadet Patrick Millikin, at center, receives a coin from Secretary of the U.S. Army Mark T. Esper, at right.
From left, Army ROTC Professor of Military Science Col. Paul Mele watches as Cadet Patrick Millikin receives a coin from Secretary of the U.S. Army Mark T. Esper. Mullikin, a senior majoring in political science and Russian, is ranked among the U.S. Army Cadet Command's top 10 percent of all cadets nationwide commissioning an an officer this academic year. Photo courtesy of the Secretary of the U.S. Army's Office.
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