President Obama spoke at the US Military Academy commencement at West Point on Saturday. Admiral Mullen will address the US Air Force Academy graduation on Wednesday. The Naval Academy graduation will be addressed by Vice President Biden on Friday.
Obama’s address, which can be viewed at the White House website, contained some interesting quotes. Many focused on his stated “international order” and missed his statements on religion and war: Read more
The Navy announced Vice President Joe Biden will deliver the address at the US Naval Academy graduation at the end of May.
Senior leaders generally rotate through the military academies. Biden spoke at the Air Force Academy last year, and Obama at Navy. This year, Obama will address the US Military Academy at West Point.
A New York paper covers the story of First Lt. Marjana Mair Bidwell [updated link], a US Army intelligence officer and wife of another Army officer. She “worshipped as a Muslim for 18 years,” but converted to Christianity while in college–which was the US Military Academy at West Point.
When I left Islam during college, I considered myself to have a Christian mindset because I related to a lot of the teachings. I was never baptized, though I did attend church out of curiosity.
Apparently, she began learning about Catholicism because her husband is Catholic.
I did not start with the intent of converting to Catholicism. It was just to learn more about my husband’s religion. I didn’t choose Catholicism, it chose me. Halfway through the classes, I realized that the Catholic Church is very straightforward and that there’s something very moving about the Eucharist. That was the turning point for me.
The classes to which she is referring are the religious education classes taught by the Chaplain Read more
As noted at AF.mil, the US military academies (Air Force, Navy, Army, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine) were ranked in the “top 100” Best Value Colleges by the Princeton Review/USA Today (again, see 2009).
The military academies, which combine both military and academic training, are government-funded and built around their missions. As a result, they are no-cost, have low student/teacher ratios, and provide some of the best educational opportunities in the US.
As quoted in the Air Force article, The Princeton Review said
If you can make it through this four-year gauntlet, though, an Air Force diploma is an awesome credential. You will almost certainly leave here with a knack for leadership and a skill set that will impress your friends.
While “impressing your friends” is hardly a worthwhile credential, it is worth noting that the Review recognizes the value of a military academy diploma. They are challenging to earn, and are earned in limited numbers, making them a commodity even in the civilian sector. (Though the education is valuable, an Academy diploma does not necessarily have instrinsic value within the military.)
The 2010 Princeton Review can be accessed directly here.
The US Army is “[rethinking] how it teaches ethics.”
Some of the interest in ethics is tied to the wars: the black eye of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, concerns that stress from unconventional conflict leads to bad decisions, and, for at least one retired general, the sense that the military lost the public’s trust in Iraq.
Officers involved in the effort say that eventually a soldier’s grounding in ethics — strong or weak — will become a factor in promotions.
Two of the primary places that ethics might intentionally be taught in the Army include the US Military Academy at West Point and the Command and General Staff College at Leavenworth. The need for ethical maturity has already been recognized in some sense at the military academies. Each has its own variation of a “character development center.”
Oddly, the director of military ethics at West Point provided a contradictory assessment of ethics in the Army: Read more
As noted here at various times, Christians are far from the only ones to struggle with conflicts between their faith and military service, or to organize in order to support one another in it. They are also not the only ones who intertwine their spiritual beliefs with their patriotic ones.
For example, in 2005 a Jewish cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point told how he was “prepped” by an older friend for his time in basic training:
One of Bergman’s older friends told him to ask for permission to participate in prayer services on Friday nights during Beast. Read more
It is true that military chapels are supposed to be, in some respects, “religiously neutral.” The objective of the regulations governing chapels is that any faith group be able to use them for their spiritual needs. As chapel space is often limited, many times a single building, or even a single room, must meet the needs of all faith groups.
The military academies have long been an exception. The main floor of the US Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, which turned 50 just a few months ago, is overtly Christian, with a huge, sculpted metal cross hanging from the ceiling. Rather than having “shared spaces,” the USAFA Chapel Read more
In a typically scathing commentary, Mr. Michael Weinstein lambasted the move of General Caslen, currently Commandant at West Point, to lead an infantry division out of Hawaii. Caslen was one of several flag officers who appeared on a Christian Embassy video investigated by the Inspector General last year (previous post).
Expanding his hyperbolic and alliterative repertoire, Weinstein called this a “tragic trifecta of travesty” and likened the General to Iraqi militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. He also criticized Caslen’s association with OCF, which he said was a
virulently fundamentalist Christian organization devoted to gaining unconstitutional control of the U.S. armed forces…
As with everything else, Weinstein has promised to add this to his ongoing lawsuit (in fact, he said it would go to the “head of the list”).