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Biden: Changing world needs new officer skills

May. 28, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  

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Air Force Academy graduates throw their caps into the air as F-16 jets from the Thunderbirds make a flyover for the class of 2014 on May 28 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. (Brennan Linsley / AP)
Vice President Joseph Biden walks past saluting graduating Air Force cadets as he arrives May 28 to attend the graduation ceremony for the class of 2014 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. (Brennan Linsley / AP)

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, COLO. — The military’s newest officers need to be strategic thinkers as well as warfighters because the U.S. will have to choose carefully when deciding whether to act alone in the world or build coalitions, Vice President Joe Biden told Air Force Academy graduates Wednesday.

Echoing President Obama’s remarks earlier in the day, Biden said the nation “must stay engaged with wisdom and humility.”

Obama, addressing Army cadets at the U.S. Military Academy graduation, urged restraint before any new military engagements.

Biden told the Air Force graduates that the nation needs a strong economy, a reputation for defending human rights and a presence in North Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific to remain a global power.

Biden said the U.S. and China can cooperate and avoid conflict.

He also warned of threats from cyberwarfare, extremism, terrorism and corruption.

For the first time, the world is faced with “the use of corruption and oligarchs in the conduct of a sinister foreign policy,” Biden said. He did not elaborate.

Nearly 1,000 white-hatted cadets sat on the football field at the academy outside Colorado Springs, their family and friends seated in the bowl of the grandstand behind them.

At the end of the ceremony, the Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying team roared overhead as the newly commissioned officers tossed their hats into the air. The Thunderbirds were absent last year after the military grounded them, citing budget cuts.

Biden joked about his own misadventures as a college student and told the cadets that minor infractions wouldn’t keep them from succeeding.

“I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor disciplinary violations,” he said.

He congratulated the cadets on accepting gay and lesbian classmates and for fighting sexual assaults, a persistent problem in the service academies and the military.

“No man ever has a right, except in self-defense, to raise a hand against a woman,” he said.

At his speech to the U.S. Naval Academy graduating class last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also urged the new officers to combat sexual assault.

In brief remarks at the Air Force Academy before Biden spoke Wednesday, Air Force Secretary Deborah L. James did not mention sexual assault but noted a number of upcoming weddings among the 2014 graduates, some to other graduates.

“I hear there’s even been some Falcon love going on around here,” she said, using the name of the school’s mascot.

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