In May 1979, Rodney Anderson was one of 15 Wofford seniors who pinned on the gold bar of an Army second lieutenant during the annual Commissioning Ceremonies of the Southern Guards ROTC battalion.
Thirty years later, Anderson returned to Leonard Auditorium to address the newest Army officers. This time, he wore the two silver stars of a major general. He had recently left a post as an assistant division commander in the 82nd Airborne, moving on with a promotion to the Pentagon as director of force management in the Headquarters, Department of the Army. It is a very demanding and important assignment that involves dealing with the managing of rotational requirements for a force that is stressed by difficult situations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“One thing that I have learned from traveling from trouble spot to trouble spot around the world is that Americans are very blessed by every standard of measurement,” Anderson told the cadets. “But we also know that freedom and opportunities are not free. Volunteers like you who raise their hands and take the oath are paying the price. Thank you.”
Anderson outlined some of the challenges that the new lieutenants will face as Army officers.
“The next decades will be a time of persistent conflicts, friction and violence,” he said. “To respond, the Army not only must fight when necessary, but it also must work with U.S. AID and the international community to carry out complex assignments related to international stability and nation building— building roads, schools and clinics, for example.
“It may take a generation or more to mark such missions as accomplished, but the course we are following is the necessary and proper one. I am convinced that you are well equipped to succeed, because your college experience has combined leadership training in ROTC with a foundation in the liberal arts that helps you understand complicated situations and solve problems.”
Before he spoke to the guests and attended the commissioning reception, Anderson reflected on his career in the military. Coming from the small town of Elloree, S.C., Anderson says his mother convinced him to accept a major academic scholarship and come to Wofford.
“While the African-American community in Elloree was certainly supportive and nurturing to its young people, I had few opportunities to learn much about the larger world,” he said. “Wofford bridged that gap for me. Some great teachers, such as Sergeant Major Kaiser Thomas and the late John Harrington, taught more than their textbooks — they spoke of making connections and relating to others. The transition from Wofford to being an Army officer was basically seamless for me.”