On the Army’s 245th birthday this year a friend asked me why I selected the Army as my career. I had not been asked that question before so I thought I should give it a serious answer not just for him, but for myself as well. Others might ask themselves why they had chosen a particular path, but I had never looked back with second thoughts or regrets.
Coming from an Army family, I had inspiring examples of my father and his military friends who openly loved the Army and its role in serving our nation. By listening to them and observing their lives I became aware of the Army’s many unique qualities and its value to the nation.
Not all the advice I received along the way was on target. One senior officer’s wife told me in no uncertain terms that I could not possibly get ahead in the Corps of Engineers because I was “not on the Chief’s team”. By that she meant that my tours with troop units including a battalion command in Vietnam and on the Army Staff really did not count because they had diverted me from the military construction and civil works of the Corps. What she didn’t realize was that the Army wanted in its future leaders the breadth of experience I was gaining.
The Army is a team. As a high school athlete, I understood and valued serving on a team, a proud and winning team. A team with a shared purpose appealed to me. I wanted a productive career full of meaningful work and the Army clearly offered that. I could envision an opportunity for ever-increasing responsibility and personal growth. It was the easiest decision I have ever made.
For 35 years on active duty I was never disappointed. Every assignment was challenging and rewarding. The leaders I served with had the highest qualities of integrity and were inspired by a mission of service.
I am particularly proud of the Army for leading the way in integrating minorities and women into its ranks. I had the honor and pleasure of working with the finest men and women, military and civilian, with whom anyone could hope to serve. The work was hard, but it meant something; we loved our teammates, our units and our country; and we enjoyed a great sense of justifiable pride in our accomplishments.
I also learned to be ready for the unexpected. Two years into an assumed three-year tour in Hawaii, the Chief of Engineers visited and assured me that I would stay there for another year. Two weeks later I was told to be in Heidelberg, Germany immediately for a new assignment! As soon as we got to Germany we saw as much of Europe as soon as we could because you never know!
Happy Birthday U.S. Army!
Lt. Gen. (ret) Henry J. Hatch
Lt. Gen. (ret) Henry Hatch served as 47th Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1988 to 1992. He joined Dawson & Associates in 2012.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dawson & Associates.