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Commander Field Army delivers Kermit Roosevelt Lecture in the United States

Lieutenant General Sir Ralph Wooddisse, Commander Field Army (CFA), has delivered a speech at the 76th Kermit Roosevelt Lecture, held at the Pentagon, West Point, USA last week (26 - 30 September).

The lecture series began in 1947 as a tribute to Kermit Roosevelt, son of former US President Theodore Roosevelt, who died in 1943. 

We need to mobilise to meet the threats as we see them. We need to make sure that our readiness is all that it should be, that we have the right systems in place to rapidly assimilate lessons and then train our armies accordingly. LT GEN WOODDISSE
COMMANDER FIELD ARMY

Kermit Roosevelt served in both the British Army and US Army during the First and Second World Wars and each year a British General travels to the US to address US serving personnel and an American General visits the UK to speak to British troops.

Against the backdrop of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, General Wooddisse delivered his speech reflecting on the potential lessons learned and what they might mean for the evolution of a 21st Century Army.

He began with a moment of reflection and gave thanks to his American hosts for the way they responded to the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He said of the late Monarch and head of the British Armed Forces: “She represents a generation that fought a World War, managed a Cold War and lived through a period of change that they must sometimes struggle to understand.”

General Wooddisse’s speech touched upon the strong relationship between the US and British Armed Forces, as he looked back at the times he served alongside American forces. He gave a historical account of the life of Kermit Roosevelt and how the lectures came about, and why they are as important today as they were in 1947.

We cannot predict where the next crisis is going to spring up, but the turbulence that has characterised this decade so far is unlikely to diminish, and the more we can understand the world in which we live, develop relationships and work with allies the better we’ll be to pre-empt and respond. LT GEN WOODDISSE
COMMANDER FIELD ARMY

The speech covered previous conflicts and the continued collaboration between the US and British military. Touching on the present, he said that many of the lessons from Ukraine have echoes in historical precedent. “Many are progressive, some are regressive,” he said. “It’s as much about spades as it is about space. However, in informing our future, we ought to be wary of assuming an enduring pervasiveness of all lessons; not all will be as true in the future as they are in the present.”

He continued: “We need to mobilise to meet the threats as we see them. We need to make sure that our readiness is all that it should be, that we have the right systems in place to rapidly assimilate lessons and then train our armies accordingly."

“We need to realise our modernisation programme bringing a range of new capabilities into service as fast as possible conscious that it is the ability to rapidly adapt technology that is proving decisive in Ukraine.

“We also need to work with you on Project Convergence to understand what the next Army needs to look like. An Army in which autonomous and robotic platforms will increasingly dominate, aided by AI, space-based weapons, and ever more sophisticated integration; these are the things that will likely prove crucial in the years and decades ahead.

“We cannot predict where the next crisis is going to spring up, but the turbulence that has characterised this decade so far is unlikely to diminish, and the more we can understand the world in which we live, develop relationships and work with allies the better we’ll be to pre-empt and respond.

This is a moment in history, a moment to defend the democratic values that define us’ to help our Allies in the face of nationalistic aggression, and to stand with our friends and partners to defend the rules based international system that has helped to preserve peace for the greater part of the last 70 years. Lt Gen WOODDISSE,
COMMANDER FIELD ARMY

“The British Army is working hard on all these areas to make ourselves ready, and to develop the ways and means to deter and defeat our enemies now and in the future. We are working hard to realise the power of combinations that are vital for any Army to win, while ensuring we are as well prepared as we can be for the challenges ahead.

“This is a moment in history, a moment to defend the democratic values that define us’ to help our Allies in the face of nationalistic aggression, and to stand with our friends and partners to defend the rules based international system that has helped to preserve peace for the greater part of the last 70 years.

“It is moments like these that I suspect Kermit Roosevelt had in mind when he and Belle (Mrs Roosevelt) envisaged these lectures, when our mutual interests and values are threatened, and where we can achieve so much more together than apart.

“In the context of the world today, this idea – forged in the fires of World War Two – that democracies, if they work together, can prevail against hostile regimes unconstrained by the requirement to answer their people for their actions, has never been more important.”