Army Surgeon General Presents Keynote Speech at Fort Detrick Black History Month Celebration
Army Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, The Surgeon General, served as guest speaker for the 2020 Black History Month celebration held at the Fort Detrick, Maryland, community auditorium, February 20. Sponsored by the 6th Medical Logistics Management Center, the event drew a large crowd, for both the main presentation and the authentic tasting session that followed.
After a rousing "huddle session" to kick off the celebration, Army Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley, Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick, addressed the crowd before welcoming Dingle to the podium.
"The power of the Army, the power of the DOD, and the power here at Fort Detrick – having those diverse backgrounds, those diverse ideas, it's certainly what gives us combat power and makes us the greatest military in the world," said Talley.
"That's why we come together at these observances," he continued, "not only to learn, but to incorporate, infuse and harness that great power within the military."
Talley then provided a brief history of Dingle's military and family background, emphasizing his family's history of military service.
"He has been breaking ground ever since he's been in the Army," said Talley. "Now, as we're going through perhaps the greatest transformation in decades, throughout the military but particularly in Army Medicine, there's no better leader, certainly, to forge the future."
Stepping to the middle of the floor, Dingle began by reciting the theme of the day's event, "Honoring the past, and securing the future," and said that "we often walk past the past every day" without stopping to consider its value.
He then related the story of LeRoy Battle, a Tuskegee Airman he met years ago at Morgan State University, the alma mater of both men. Dingle recounted how he eventually realized the legacy of Battle, and how the Airman spoke of having to "stick together" with his fellow Soldiers "to complete the mission" during World War II.
"LeRoy Battle shared with me the mantra of the Tuskegee Airmen: 'Stay focused, Stick to it, and Get it done!'" he told the audience. "And as he said this to me, (I realized) here was history right before me. We stand on the history of legends that have gone before us, that have brought change."
Dingle's words were both powerful and poignant, as he spoke of numerous African American military units and personnel that served as the "first wave" of the movement towards racial equality in America. He spoke of Army Lt. Jackie Robinson, well known for his athletic ability but lesser known for his military service. Years before Rosa Parks made history in refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Robinson did the same on a bus at Fort Benning, Georgia, despite the probability of a court-martial charge, said Dingle.
As he continued, many in the room were visibly moved and clearly engaged in the historical accounts being offered.
"In spite of what you may go through as Soldiers, as parents, as children, as leaders, as civilians, life is going to happen – opposition is going to happen," said Dingle. "The thing that we can take from these African American Soldiers who served their nation with the 'Duty, Honor, and Country' that General MacArthur talked about – we must remember the mantra that we must stay focused, that we must stick to it, that we must get it done."
"Martin Luther King said it best," he continued. "He said, 'We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.'"
After a short pause, Dingle added, "I challenge you, don't be late! I challenge you to stay focused, stick to it, and get it done. Because you – we – have a role in securing the future."