“My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than can be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you probably can never do under any other circumstances.”
George Washington, Encouraging his men to re-enlist in the Army | Tuesday, December 31, 1776
Last night, members of the intelligence community gathered to honor rising IC stars at INSA’s 2019 Achievement Awards. Keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley, Jr., Director of DIA, addressed the crowd, opening with these words: “You will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you probably can never do under any other circumstances.” This is how he described the critical work of those serving in intelligence and national defense.
While many avenues exist to recognize more senior intelligence pros, INSA’s awards are meant to recognize rising stars in the field. Seeing the absence of awards for intelligence professionals early in their careers, Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) created the awards in 2010.
INSA achievement awards “Start with Why”
As leaders in every field have discovered, the key to inspiring people is not to get them excited about what they are doing, but why they are doing it. Lt. Gen. Ashley began his keynote address with this point. Referring to author Simon Sinek, he talked about the concept of the “why” of the intelligence community.
In a field that can require many monotonous hours in front of a desk, months of travel, overseas deployments, and time apart from family, why do intelligence professionals do what they do? As one awardee noted, it’s not because they enjoy reading through thousands of emails on a bad guy’s phone. It’s so the people in the field can find the bad guy and bring him to justice. As Lt. Gen. Ashley aptly put, it’s for the thousands of fellow fans next to him in the football stadium, for his little grandniece, for his family and – for all American families.
“The ‘why’ of what we do starts with our families – and extends to 330 Million Americans,” said Ashley. “Imagine your task is to defend the hopes and dreams of 330 million Americans. How could that not get you out of bed in the morning?”
As awardees took the stage to accept their awards, it was clear they felt the same way. Winners thanked parents who – though they may know very little of their child’s profession – drove across the country to see them accept their awards. Children, dressed to the nines, stood as their parents thanked them for their inspiration. Tearful spouses grinned ear to ear as their loved one met their eyes and smiled at them from the stage.
Not only do these awards recognize and encourage young security professionals, but they are an opportunity to remember what is at the core of the national security profession: protecting people and ideals.Though they may not be standing in battle formations with George Washington, their “service to the cause of liberty” and to their country is no less unique, no less essential to the American story than those who authored it.