It is an honor to be with you today for the 200th Sovereign’s Parade, as you commission as the future leaders of the British Army and our close allies’ armies. I recognize the hard work you have all put in over the past forty-four weeks and hope you feel proud of your achievements. Of course, none of you would be here without the tremendous support of your family and friends, who have joined us in great numbers today. As a father of two alumni of this Academy, I know they will be immensely proud of witnessing you on parade.
Having attended two of the other Military Academies fifty years ago, I understand the challenges that come with military training. The nerves, exhaustion, and even self-doubt are familiar to me. However, the lifelong friendships that are forged through shared hardship and the humor that arises in the darkest hours remain with you.
You are joining the Armed Forces at a demanding time, full of opportunities and challenges. Our adversaries and competitors are challenging the rules that govern global security and prosperity. As a response, Defense is undergoing significant modernization, ensuring the Army remains credible and agile to match current and future threats. The organization faces ever-increasing demands, and much will be asked of you and your leadership over the course of your career, starting from now.
As we pass the first anniversary of the conflict in Ukraine, I am proud of the role the British Army, alongside wider Defense, has played in supporting Ukraine. The UK has been a leading nation in delivering training expertise, equipment, and advice alongside our allies and partners. For as long as the conflict endures, you will all no doubt have some part to play in our unrelenting support, alongside allies, as the courageously indomitable Ukrainian people endeavor to protect their sovereign rights.
The conflict in Ukraine has reminded us of the importance of partnerships, not only across NATO but globally, including with non-traditional allies. Such partnerships have been strengthened over the course of the past year, perhaps most evident through Finland’s accession to the Alliance, reinforcing the enduring strength of our collective resolve to stand up to illegal and unprovoked aggression.
We face challenges at home and abroad, all of which, I know, draw on our Army to assist in keeping the country safe and functioning. Some who stood here only two years ago have evacuated the most vulnerable at no-notice from Kabul, supported our Border Force and ambulance crews, assisted the Government response to a global pandemic, and trained in ever more far-flung places in Africa, the Middle East, and the Indo-Asia Pacific.
Never before has there been such a test on our junior leadership in confronting such a diversity of tasks, while keeping pace with the integration of new technologies. You will need to balance mastering your core skills while determining how your people best work alongside – and not in competition with – these new enhancements. However, while training and technology will provide us with the tools to remain a credible modern army, we must not lose sight of the fact that our people are at the center of our core business, our most valuable and adaptable asset. People remain at the heart of all we do; they are our competitive advantage, and we must continue to transform our culture and training to retain this, while continuing to deliver capable officers for the future.
I believe it is the confidence in your own skills taught here, in those of each other and those of the soldiers you will command, that combined with your values and standards, will see you make the right decisions in often unfamiliar, sometimes lonely, and occasionally, frightening circumstances.
The training you have received will stand you all in good stead to face such challenges for the future. As symbolized by the new Academy Colour, you represent a living institution, proud of its heritage but confident to embrace the change necessary to respond to new challenges as leaders of the future.
As leaders of the future, you must also embrace the ongoing transformation of the Army’s culture and values. The values and standards that have served the British Army well for centuries remain as important as ever, but they must also evolve and adapt to the changing world we live in.
The Army’s culture must be one that is inclusive and diverse, where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and contribute to the best of their abilities. This means not only recruiting from all backgrounds but also ensuring that the Army is a place where all individuals feel valued and supported, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics.
Furthermore, as leaders of the future, you must be prepared to lead by example in the ongoing fight against discrimination, harassment, and bullying. The Army has made great strides in recent years to address these issues, but there is still much work to be done. It is up to you to continue this progress and create a culture where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
The challenges that lie ahead of you are great, but so are the opportunities. The Army is undergoing a period of transformation and modernization, and you will be at the forefront of this change. You will have the chance to shape the future of the Army and ensure that it remains one of the most respected and capable fighting forces in the world.
In closing, I want to once again congratulate you on your achievements and wish you all the best as you embark on your careers as officers in the British Army. You have a challenging and rewarding journey ahead of you, but I am confident that you are well-prepared to meet the challenges that lie ahead. Remember, the values and standards that you have learned here at the Academy will guide you throughout your career, and always remember that your most valuable asset is the people under your command.