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Army Chief of Staff visits UNG and shares lessons of leadership

Gen. Mark A. Milley, the 39th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, visited the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Dahlonega Campus on Aug. 28 to meet with President Bonita Jacobs and speak to members of the Corps of Cadets.

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Cadet Col. Tyler Farney, commander of UNG's Boar's Head Brigade, presents a gift to Gen. Mark A. Milley, the 39th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, during the general's visit to UNG on Aug. 28.

"The University of North Georgia was honored to welcome Gen. Milley to campus," Jacobs said. "While Gen. Milley is familiar with UNG because of its illustrious military alumni and our status as one of the top senior military colleges in the nation, it was also my pleasure to update him on the recent successes of our Corps of Cadets and the advances and recognition for UNG in our cybersecurity, language and leadership programs."

Milley assumed duty as chief of staff in August 2015 after serving as the 21st Commander of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

After a meeting with Jacobs, Milley spoke to the entire UNG Corps of Cadets and special guests at the Convocation Center. In his comments, Milley referenced several high-ranking current and retired generals who graduated from UNG and gave his thanks for the work done by UNG to produce military officers.

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Gen. Mark A. Milley, the 39th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and UNG President Bonita Jacobs.

"I think it's appropriate, also, to say thanks for the service and sacrifice that you're about to do and the service and sacrifice that UNG students have been doing since 1873," Milley said. "Just since 2001, seven members of this Corps of Cadets have been killed in action. … we should never forget the very essence of what we do as an Army is to defend this republic. What we do can cause us to die. It's a very serious obligation."

While his speech began with praise and appreciation for UNG, he also discussed the future of the U.S. Army mission and readiness and shared lessons about leadership with the 764 members of the Corps of Cadets in attendance.

"You're going to have to have unbelievable personal integrity. You're going to have to have spines of titanium steel in order to deal with that environment," Milley said. "Integrity is going to matter. Your candor, your compassion, your love of your soldiers, your loyalty, your sense of selfless service – all of that will matter as well, but integrity is what will make or break leaders in those type of intense, pressurized environments."

After his speech, Milley had lunch with a select group of a dozen cadets, where he asked them questions about their background and their plans and motivations for the future.

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The entire Corps of Cadets cheered at the conclusion of Gen. Milley's speech.

"As a cadet who's not even in the military yet, to have that opportunity and be able to share that knowledge with our fellow cadets is going to put us above and beyond most cadets," said Cadet Col. Tyler Farney of Phoenix, Arizona, commander of UNG's Boar's Head Brigade. "It was a fantastic opportunity that I wish more people could have. I'm very happy that we were afforded the opportunity – just as a university – for him to visit. I think it's motivating the cadets, too."

Cadet Capt. Dwight Bennett of Stockbridge, Georgia, Alpha Company commander, called the experience a privilege.

"The chief of staff far surpassed any preconceived notions that I might have had," Bennett said. "When he was closing his speech, two of the biggest things I picked up from him was as a leader to be competent and to always remain humble. I think it's fairly easy as a leader to get ahead of yourself sometimes, and I think one thing that all leaders should remember is to be that relatable leader, be that personable leader that your troops can come to."

Milley was invited to visit UNG by alumnus retired Lt. Gen. James Terry. Also, UNG has a direct tie to Milley's office; Lt. Col. Kitefre Oboho, a UNG graduate, is an aide de camp for the chief of staff and accompanied Milley on the visit. Oboho reflected on the foundation of leadership that he gained at UNG.

"You learn so much from just being here at North Georgia," Oboho said. "Frankly, it made me the man I am today. It's a great school."

Despite a busy military career, Oboho has remained connected to UNG since his December 2002 graduation and commissioning; he and his wife have awarded an annual scholarship to a UNG cadet for more than 10 years.

"Our goal is essentially to help someone else like I was helped while I was in need," Oboho said. "I hope that the student who gets that every year, that it helps them as it did me 16 years ago."

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