FORT BELVOIR, Va. — Surrounded by a large crowd of Soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians, Elwin Carter let out a deep breath as he raised his right hand to take the Oath of Enlistment.
Joining as a multichannel transmission systems operator and maintainer, or 25Q, Carter was excited to take the first step of his Army career. He joined 30 young men and women from the Baltimore and Richmond areas during the 2nd annual “Why We Serve” ceremony, Sept. 5.
“When you think back to the day that you took the oath for the very first time, there was a sense of pride and enthusiasm,” said Lt. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, Army chief information officer/G-6, who hosted the event. “The moment you uttered those words, you were instantly a part of something bigger than yourself.”
Just three months prior, Carter was working long hours at a local fast-food restaurant. He had recently dropped out of college due to high tuition costs and was in dire need of a change.
“My community is kind of going downhill. It is pretty much known for violence, and there is a lot of poverty going on,” he said. “I figured I could show them that there is a better way … and show others that they don’t have to follow in their parents’ footstep.”
Carter chose to join the Army for more than just military benefits. Service is about giving back and helping others, Carter said. In many ways, Carter is emulating one of the priorities set by Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville.
While readiness, modernization and reform continue to be Army top priorities, “taking care of people” is McConville’s No. 1 priority, said Crawford, paraphrasing a quote from the Army chief.
“When we send the Army somewhere, we don’t go to participate. We don’t go to try hard,” Crawford said, quoting the Army chief. “We go to win — winning matters! We win by doing the right things, the right way.”
People are the Army’s greatest strength and most important weapon system, Crawford said. In turn, the oath empowers and obligates the Soldier community to make a difference in the lives of others and remain accountable to all.
Crawford provided an opportunity for the hundreds in attendance to pause and reflect on the oath, who they are, and what they stand for as professionals in service to the United States. Senior leaders, who have years of service under their belt, have an obligation to set the example for new recruits as they become members of the Army family and embrace the Army values, he said.
Crawford expounded on the chief’s statement, explaining that winning is when the Army community steps up to take care of others. Winning is developing cohesive, highly trained, disciplined, and fit teams, and treating others with dignity and respect.
“And ultimately, winning is [maintaining] an environment and a culture where the American people are willing to trust the United States Army with … their most prized possessions: Their sons and daughters,” Crawford said.
The ceremony also included a near-simultaneous reaffirmation of the oath by military officers, enlisted Soldiers and civilian professionals in the audience.