A USMA Commandant And SOCOM Commander Reflects On Leadership, Responsibility, And Taking Care Of Soldiers

Richard D. Clarke Jr.


Richard D. Clarke Jr. was born in Germany, the first of three sons born to Lieutenant and Mrs. Clarke. He grew up as an Army Brat living around the world, including time spent at West Point when his father taught in OPE (Office of Physical Education, the predecessor to DPE), and attending high school in West Berlin. As a young boy, he remembers his father’s two deployments to Vietnam and communicating by cassette tape or the occasional MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) call. When it was time to apply for college, he considered different ROTC or academy options, but when he was accepted at the Military Academy, he made his decision. As a Cadet, one of the pieces of knowledge that inspired him was Schofield’s Definition of Discipline, although the attritional model that he observed at West Point in the early 1980s did not always reflect Schofield’s guidance. By the time he returned as Commandant of Cadets, the leadership model at the academy had evolved. In 1984, he commissioned as an Infantry Officer and led Soldiers in a wide variety of assignments including the 101st Airborne, the 1st and 3rd Armored Divisions, the 82nd Airborne Division, the Ranger Regiment, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the 10th Mountain Division, and SOCOM (Special Operations Command). He feels that one aspect of his career that helped in his personal development was getting a wide variety of experience in diverse units and interacting with different leaders. He commanded battalions in both the 82nd Airborne Division and in the 75th Ranger Regiment, and describes the various leadership techniques he used in each assignment. Over a span of five years, he deployed to Iraq five times and Afghanistan twice, both as a battalion and regimental commander (75th Ranger Regiment). From January 2013 to August 2014, he served as the 74th Commandant of Cadets at West Point, and he shares some of his experiences from that assignment. Following his time at West Point, he commanded the 82nd Airborne Division, partnering with the Iraqis to defeat ISIS. He is currently the Commander of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) where, he states, he has the best men and women in the military and a good mission. Finally, he describes what his service and West Point mean to him, recalling some good advice he received from his father.


conflicts Iraq War Afghanistan War Cold War
topics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie West Point History Military Family Military Techniques Army Athletics
interviewer David Siry
date 16 March 2022


name Richard D. Clarke Jr.
institution USMA
graduation year 1984
service Infantry
unit 101st Airborne Division; 1st Armored Division; 3rd Armored Division; 82nd Airborne Division; 75th Ranger Regiment; 173rd Airborne Brigade; 10th Mountain Division; SOCOM
specialty 74th Commandant of Cadets
service dates 1984