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2003 Distinguished Graduate Award

    Edwin H. Burba, Jr.

A distinguished soldier renowned and respected throughout the Army for his absolute integrity, visionary leadership, love of country, and his remarkable valor and courage, Edwin Hess Burba, Jr. personifies to every graduate and to our Nation the meaning of being a West Pointer.
Upon his graduation from West Point, Ed Burba was commissioned in the Infantry. Completing Airborne and Ranger training, his early service was with the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 325th Infantry and the 504th Airborne Infantry Regiment, at Fort Bragg. After a tour of duty with the 7th Psychological Operations Group as Assistant Operations Officer in Okinawa and Vietnam, CPT Burba attended the Infantry Officer Advanced Course.
Volunteering for a second tour in Vietnam, Ed Burba joined the 1st Cavalry Division as Operations Officer for the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry. In early 1968, while in close combat with a major North Vietnamese force during the Tet Offensive, he was grievously wounded by enemy automatic weapons fire. Despite multiple chest, stomach, and neck wounds and at one time given up for dead, Ed Burba survived. He returned to duty in just four months, and for thirty-five years he has stoically endured the painful aftereffects of his wounds.
Subsequent to his Vietnam service, Ed Burba held a series of increasingly important command and staff assignments that prepared him for the major contributions to the Army he would later make. These included battalion commander and G-3, 8th Infantry Division; branch chief at the Army Military Personnel Center; director of the Battalion Training Model at the Training and Doctrine Command; Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Recruiting Command; Brigade Commander, 4th Infantry Division; and Executive Officer to the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army. Additionally, then-Lieutenant Colonel Burba attended the National War College and earned a master's degree in International Relations from George Washington University.
Promoted to Brigadier General in 1983, Ed Burba was assigned to The Infantry Center at Fort Benning as Deputy Commanding General. In 1985 he became Commanding General.
From his arrival at The Infantry Center until the very present, General Burba's impact on the equipping, training and leadership of the Army has been extraordinary. He led the way in revitalizing the combat forces from the malaise of Vietnam to a new, dynamic, and purposeful Army. He orchestrated the acquisition of a number of significant new weapons systems, including the Squad Automatic Weapon; the improved M-16 rifle; night vision technologies; and the Javelin anti-tank weapon which provides mech infantry units with the capability to defeat enemy armor - a first in military history. Despite efforts on the part of detractors to terminate the program, he brought the Bradley Fighting Vehicle to final development. Its performance in the Gulf War vindicated his confidence.
General Burba completely restructured the Infantry Basic and Advanced Officer Courses, vastly improving tactical and leadership training for a generation of young officers. He was instrumental in modernizing infantry unit organizations. Combined with new equipment and innovative doctrine and training concepts, maneuver warfare at the tactical level reached a state of readiness under Ed Burba's leadership that prepared the Army to fight and win the conflict in Panama and the two in Iraq.
In 1987 Major General Burba was named Commanding General of the 7th Division at Fort Ord, California. In 1988, promoted to Lieutenant General, he was assigned to Korea as Commanding General, Combined Field Army. There, he introduced the South Korean Army to new concepts of training and materially improved the overall combat readiness of that army.
In 1989, General Burba returned to the United States as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Forces Command. In this, his terminal assignment, he mobilized, trained, and deployed the bulk of the Army that fought in the Persian Gulf War. Widely recognized as the best trainer in the Army since Vietnam, Ed Burba's understanding of soldiers and their equipment, and enemy strategy and tactics permitted the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the enemy in fewer than 100 hours.
Ed Burba retired from the Army in 1993. At his retirement ceremony, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, said "...he has been a leader in re-instilling a sense of purpose to the Army, and applying the values of the past to the challenges of the present and future...but my thanks pale against the thanks from all of the soldiers whose lives he touched over the years."
General Burba continued to influence Army doctrine and tactics as advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, during the Kosovo campaign and for the past ten years as Senior Observer for the Army's Battle Command Training Program.
Among his many decorations, Ed Burba holds the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Army and Air Force Commendation Medals.

Every aspect of Ed Burba's brilliant military career of dedication and selfless service to the Army and the Nation embodies the ideals expressed in the West Point motto: Duty, Honor, Country.

Accordingly, the Association of Graduates is proud to present the 2003 Distinguished Graduate Award to Edwin Hess Burba, Jr., USMA Class of 1959.

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