Copy of EN7A1781.jpgJames E. McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, speaks at the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment graduation ceremony Sept. 10. McPherson visited Fort Jackson to see how the post trains during the pandemic. (Photo by Tori Evans)

By Robert Timmons                                                                                                                                                                                            Fort Jackson Public Affairs

James E. McPherson, Under Secretary of the Army, paid a visit to Fort Jackson Sept. 9 and 10 to see firsthand how Fort Jackson trains new Soldiers under COVID conditions.200909-A-ZN169-089.jpg

He saw the Soldier Ceremony, visited Victory Tower, participated in group zeroing with an M4 carbine, visited the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School and U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy; and was a panelist on the post’s bi-weekly virtual town hall. He also spoke at the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment graduation.

“I stood in your shoes, in your boots, when I stood in a graduation ceremony just like this, McPherson said to the graduating Soldiers. “I still remember my drill sergeants and you will remember your drill sergeants for the rest of your life.”

200909-A-ZN169-042.jpgMy drill sergeants “taught me about Army values. About sacrifice, about service. What I learned here in basic training set me on the path of lifelong career of service. Just like it will for you.”

You should be proud of what brought you to this point.

“You have heard this before, but it’s worth repeating,” he said, “you are now part of a small elite group less than 1% of our citizens who served in the military. For that alone … you should be incredibly proud.”

McPherson said the training the Soldiers just went through had helped Sgt. Maj. Thomas “Patrick” Payne when he was on a mission to free more than 70 captives from an ISIS prison in Iraq five years ago. Payne was awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House Sept. 11.

“This heroism like the actions of so many before him is part of our military history and our legacy. This legacy you are now part of. You now have the responsibility of living the Army values and maintaining the trust of your fellow Soldiers. There will be challenges ahead as well as tremendous opportunities.”

On his first day at Fort Jackson he visited the 120th Adjutant General Battalion (Reception), witnessed trainees going through Victory Tower, zeroed a rifle at the zero range and observed trainees going through the Hammer field training exercise. In addition to attending graduation on the second day, he visited the Chaplain School, Drill Sergeant Academy, sat in on a Project Inclusion listening and participated in the Commanding General’s Virtual Town Hall on Special Topics.

McPherson during the virtual town hall characterized the Soldier Ceremony as “thrilling” and “a real inspiration as I head back up to the Pentagon.”