U.S. Army Gen. Michael X. Garrett, the U.S. Army Forces Command leader, honors 2004 Norwich University graduate who died while deployed with the Army in Iraq

U.S. Army Gen. Michael X. Garrett honored a fallen Norwich University graduate and dispensed leadership advice Tuesday, reminding the Corps of Cadets that leading starts with minding details, sometimes as trivial as collecting trash.

Garrett, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, visited campus to train, eat and talk with the Corps of Cadets and honor U.S. Army Sgt. Adam Kennedy, a 2004 Norwich graduate and former Mountain Cold Weather Company member who died April 8, 2007, in Al Diwaniyah, Iraq.

Garrett’s speech at Plumley Armory gave Norwich two four-star U.S. Army generals’ visits in two weeks. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, the U.S. Training and Doctrine Command commander, spoke at Shapiro Field House on Oct. 19. Like his close friend Funk, Garrett is an U.S. Army leader’s son; Garrett’s first Army sergeant major was his father.

“Today’s visit is something that has been prominent on my list of things to do since Adam died. Deeply personal to me, because I consider this a small way to honor him and his service.” U.S. Army four-star Gen. Michael X. Garrett, honoring Sgt. Adam P. Kennedy ’04

Kennedy was from Norfolk, Massachusetts, and on the Army’s 25th infantry division’s 4th brigade combat team. Kennedy was 25 when he deployed to Iraq, and served on Garrett’s security team. An enemy rocket hit and killed Kennedy as he drove Garrett’s vehicle.

Garrett called Kennedy’s death heart-wrenching for him, his fellow soldiers and Kennedy’s family.

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Members of Norwich University’s Corps of Cadets perform hand-release pushups on Tuesday during U.S. Army Gen. Michael X. Garrett’s speech at Plumley Armory. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

Garrett wears a bracelet every day to honor Kennedy; Garrett’s Mountain Cold Weather workout at Norwich was also in Kennedy’s honor. On Tuesday, Garrett’s voice broke briefly as he remembered Kennedy, whom he called a leader, model soldier and confidant.

“He represented Norwich and lived by the values that each of you are carrying on today. He did so with exceptional pride,” Garrett said. “Today’s visit is something that has been prominent on my list of things to do since Adam died. Deeply personal to me, because I consider this a small way to honor him and his service.”

Garrett, a fitness enthusiast who’s written about how training underpins “Army strong,” couldn’t resist requesting extra activity. He had the Corps audience drop to the floor for 30 hand-release pushups, a minimum standard for U.S. Army infantry personnel. (Garrett began in, and still identifies with, the Army’s infantry.)

Trusted triple

Although Funk brought Funk’s Fundamentals, 40 bullet points for leadership success, Garrett, whose command, also known as FORSCOM, organizes, trains, mobilizes, deploys, sustains and reconstitutes conventional forces for combatant commanders, had just three.

Garrett’s trusted triple, which he called small gestures that collectively move people toward goals, were:

  1. Never pass a piece of trash without picking it up.
  2. Communicate as often as possible.
  3. Lead cheerfully. This last one matters particularly, Garrett said, because nobody likes or trusts a cranky leader and negativity rolls downhill.
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Noah Duckett of Norwich University’s Corps of Cadets shakes hands with four-star U.S. Army Gen. Michael X. Garrett on Tuesday at Plumley Armory. (Photo by Mark Collier/Norwich University.)

“That’s what leadership is all about, positive action, making sure that the next thing that you do, that your team does, is a step in the right direction,” he said. “Each of those individual steps in the right direction (can) amount to a big impact.”

Garrett said he practices what he preaches, ensuring that his “video matches the audio.” Leaders who collect stray rubbish, as he does even on golf fairways, will also likely correct other out-of-place things, Garrett said, and elite units, which never leave anything askew for long, will demand as much.

Also, Garrett said, leaders who express their thinking never have confused followers unclear about duties or missions. And, he added, people who do positive things for others, whether sharing advice or writing recommendations, have a resonant, lasting effect.

“Leadership is a privilege,” Garrett said. “Never catch yourself feeling too important to do something good for the people around you. … A simple ‘yes’ and a positive action will stick with them for a very, very long time.”

As Funk had, Garrett told the cadets to seize opportunities and learn from one another. Skills learned at Norwich University, he said, such as acting with honesty, integrity and courage, will last a lifetime.

“You can and should build this habit now,” he said. “Because in the years to come, people who know you’ve graduated through the Norwich Corps of Cadets will expect you to set the example.”

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