Ge n . Gu s t a v e Pe r n a , commanding general of Army Materiel Command, underscored the importance of officer mentorship at the 45th annual banquet of The ROCKS, Inc. at the Fort Belvoir Officers’ Club, Saturday. Before accepting recognition as an honorary ROCKS member, he was introduced by his long-time mentor, retired Brig. Gen. Johnnie Wilson, who first met Perna in 1990, when he chose him to be his aide. Wilson said Perna’s leadership was evident, and urged him to continue learning and leading in the years ahead. Even after retirement, Wilson continued to mentor and check on Perna’s progress.

Learning leadership

 Perna looked back and cited Wilson’s style and leadership as crucial. “I learned about passion … about determination and persistence. I learned that if you treat people right, it will go a long way,” he said. Perna lauded The ROCKS’ goal of mentoring as a crucial ingredient to improving the Officer Corps, the vital importance of effective and sustained mentorship and the professional development that everyone involved gets.

Cadets are the future

Even as a flag officer, Perna continues to attend Cadet-commissioning ceremonies. To the Cadets attending, he said, “thank you for what you’re about to do. Whether its one year or 30 years, you’re about to do more than many people have done and I want to say thank you.” The ROCKS, Inc. membership is open to present or past commissioned officers, college cadets and Army civilians GS-12 or higher. Over the years, the organization has strived to strengthen the Army’s Officer Corps through mentoring, professionalism and a commitment to highly competent, culturally diverse leadership. ROCKS programs include encouraging, mentoring, developing, and rewarding outstanding Army ROTC and Military Academy cadets. ROCKS particularly focuses on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs; cadet command and with professors of Military Science at HBCUs.