WASHINGTON- Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning visited the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University on Jan. 11, using his engagements with ROTC cadets, students, and staff to underscore how public service is essential to national security and he urged college students to consider the myriad ways to serve their country.
“The mission of supporting Soldiers, the problem set that you will face, the impact you can have, and the fact that you can make a real difference in the world is why public service attracts people,” said Fanning.
He provided the remarks during separate conversations with University of Michigan Alec Gallimore, dean of the College of Engineering and Ohio State’s Zachary Mears, Assistant Vice President for National Security Programs and Research.
Secretary Fanning told the audiences made up of students, faculty, administrators and guests about how he became interested in government work as an undergraduate at Dartmouth University.
“In 1988, I was attending Dartmouth College in New Hampshire when both political parties had open primaries, so there were quite a few candidates running for president. It’s a small state; there aren’t many places to go and they were always on campus. I just got the bug for government politics, government service.”
Fanning worked as a congressional aide and in the department of defense during the Clinton administration and the last eight years holding 10 different job titles within Office of the Secretary of Defense, Army, Navy and Air Force.
“My team likes to call me the oldest millennial, because I’ve had a bizarre career path,” Fanning said. “But I was moving into many different things, seizing many different opportunities. People can get very focused on wanting to do ‘X’ and that’s not necessarily the best way to come into Washington. The best way to come into Washington is to find good bosses doing interesting things and start there.”
In May 2016, Fanning was appointed as Secretary of the Army by President Obama and oversees a workforce of 1.4 million people with a budget of $140 billion.
When asked what advice he would give to those looking to go into management positions, he referred back to advice given by his fist boss.
“Never underestimate the degree you need to communicate,” Fanning said. “That is a non-stop, ongoing requirement for any leadership job. I find that even in a large organization like the Army, you can drive change very quickly, so long as you have the right people involved and you just prioritize and focus on them. If I tried to have a handle on everything the Army did, it would grind to a halt. You have to size up the people you trust and tell them, ‘Come to me when you need help, but otherwise you’re on your own.'”
As part of his visit to Ann Arbor, Fanning also was briefed on the NCAA-DoD Grand Alliance: Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (CARE) Consortium which offers the promise of a large-scale, multi-site study of the natural history of concussion in both sexes and multiple sports. He also stopped in the robotics lab which studies Autonomy, Perception, Robotics, Interfaces, and Learning.
New technologies and new ways of looking at injuries and training are forcing the Department of Defense, the Army, and the other military services to think creatively about how they more effectively attract the next generation of Americans to a life of public service.
“You really have an opportunity to make a difference for your country and your fellow citizens,” said Fanning.