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2005 Distinguished Graduate Award


As an outstanding combat leader and commander, educator, and soldier-statesman, General Sam Sims Walker has given a lifetime of exemplary service to the Nation, the United States Army, and his fellow soldiers, epitomizing the ideals of "Duty, Honor, Country."

Commissioned into the Infantry upon graduation, General Walker´s career began with an assignment as a platoon leader in the 11th Airborne Division in Japan, and over the course of the next 32 years, he commanded at every level. His leadership skills, honed at West Point, came into sharp focus on the battlefield in Korea, when, as a company commander in the 24th Division, he received the first of two Silver Stars for heroism. He returned from Korea in 1951 and was assigned as an instructor at the Infantry School at Ft. Benning.

Following graduation from the Command and General Staff College in 1957, General Walker was assigned to a number of highly responsible positions, including aide de camp to the Chief of Staff of the Army, company tactical officer at West Point, and Secretary of the General Staff of the United Nations Command/US Forces, Korea. In 1963 he was selected to attend the National War College, finishing the course as a Distinguished Graduate. Following a year in command of the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry in Germany, he once again moved to the sound of the guns by volunteering for combat duty in Vietnam. There, he became G3 of the First Infantry Division, and then, while still a lieutenant colonel, took command of a brigade. While in command of this brigade, he earned the second of his Silver Stars for extraordinary heroism under fire.

On his return to the United States then-Colonel Walker attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard and was assigned to the Office of the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army as Chief of Force Readiness, Force Planning, and Analysis. In this position he developed a method for predicting active and reserve forces´ readiness under mobilization and non-mobilization conditions that was approved by the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Army, and Chief of Staff as a key management tool. Following this service he was selected personally by the Army Chief of Staff to represent his service on the Council of Foreign Relations.

Promoted to Brigadier General in 1968, he was assigned as the Assistant Division Commander of the 82d Airborne Division. A year later General Walker became the 54th Commandant of Cadets. At West Point he again displayed his distinguished leadership during an unsettling period for the Academy. The Fourth Class System, and the Honor Code were being challenged from within and without the Academy. His rational, focused approach to the problems faced by the Academy during this difficult time provided a roadmap to follow in meeting challenges while maintaining the fundamental core values of "Duty, Honor, Country."

Following his tour as Commandant of Cadets, he was promoted to Major General and given command of the 3d Infantry Division in Germany. As the Division Commander his concern for soldiers´ well-being contributed greatly to the restoring of soldier morale and combat effectiveness resulting from Vietnam war-related personnel turbulence. He commanded the Division for two years and in 1974 was selected to be the US Commander in Berlin. There, he demonstrated a statesman-like talent in dealing with German officials and the Four Powers represented in the city. He also enhanced contingency planning for the defense of West Berlin and greatly improved allied coordination for the execution of vital contingencies.

Promoted to Lieutenant General, General Walker served from 1975 to 1977 as the Deputy Commanding General, Forces Command at Ft. McPherson, Georgia. Here he shared responsibility for the readiness of Army forces that would be deployed throughout the world to augment the Combatant Commands. In 1977 General Walker was again selected for promotion, this time to the rank of General, and at the same time was appointed as Commanding General, Allied Land Forces Southeast, with headquarters in Turkey. This Command is responsible for the defense of NATO´s southern flank, and General Walker was effective in improving regional command coordination, thus contributing significantly to the enhancement of US-Turkish relations. He was awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for his achievements, and the Distinguished Service Medal of the Turkish Armed Forces.

Following his retirement from active duty in 1981, General Walker returned to academia as the 11th Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. At VMI, General Walker made enormous contributions to the governance of the Institute at a time when it was seeking to move forward on a number of fronts. He also reformed certain aspects of the Fourth Class System that were detrimental to the military training and character development of cadets. As a result of far-reaching improvements he made in academics, administration and physical facilities, VMI reinforced its status as a premier military institution of higher learning.

General Walker served for many years as a Trustee-at-Large of the Association of Graduates, and in appreciation for his dedicated service was designated a Trustee Emeritus in 1996. He is also a Board member of the Advisory Council of the US-Korea Foundation, the Council on US-Korea Security Studies, the National D-Day Museum, and American Friends of Turkey.

Sam Walker´s distinguished record of achievement as a combat leader in Korea and Vietnam, as an educator at West Point and VMI, and as a soldier-statesman in Berlin and in NATO´s Allied Land Forces Southeast epitomizes the highest ideals and values of selfless service. It is with great pride that the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy presents the 2005 Distinguished Graduate Award to General Sam Sims Walker, USMA Class of 1946.

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