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Mershon Center for International Security Studies

Mershon Center for International Security Studies

As his term ends, Sec. Eric Fanning speaks about his role leading Army

Eric Fanning

Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning is days away from leaving his post as head of the U.S. Army, but he believes others should answer the call to public service.

Fanning spoke Wednesday to a full theater at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. He was a featured speaker for the Mershon Center for International Security Studies.

Fanning’s career path has led him to jobs in and out of Washington, D.C., and to leadership roles in three branches of the military.

“Do whatever you are asked to do as well as you can do it,” Fanning said.

His message to the audience: if you are too focused on following a career path, you may miss opportunities along the way.

“Seize opportunities as they come so you can learn that next thing,” Fanning said. “Work with someone you admire and it will lead to something else.”

Fanning, the first openly gay Secretary of the Army, spoke about the need for and value of diversity. He said he has worked to conscientiously pick diverse teams to get all points of view in his decision-making. Fanning said it is critical to have an Army that reflects the country it serves.

Fanning is a graduate of Dartmouth College but is no stranger to the Buckeye state. He went to Centerville High School, just outside of Dayton.

Zachary Mears, assistant vice president for national security and research programs at Ohio State, moderated the conversation. Mears and Fanning served in the Department of Defense together.

Eric Fanning

Zach McIntyre, a first-year public affairs and national security major, asked about a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan and the threat they posed.

Fanning said the U.S. continues to train Afghan soldiers so they can take over the security of their own country.

“I think it’s going to take a little longer, but I’m not as concerned about some of the reports you might be hearing,” he said.

Fanning said the Army has issues to focus on beyond the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. He said his priorities included funding mental health services for soldiers and civilians dealing with post-traumatic stress. He also said research and development is critical as well.

Fanning is an appointee of President Obama. President-elect Donald Trump has selected businessman and former Army major Vincent Viola to lead the Army.

Story by Chris Booker, University Media Relations
Photos by Kevin Fitzsimons, University Communications