It’s a huge privilege for me to be here with you today.
As Prime Minister I come into contact with our armed forces a great deal.
Whether visiting Afghanistan, going round bases in the UK, or meeting with our top officers for briefings as part of our new National Security Council.
And I just have to tell you this.
There is nothing that makes me more proud of our country, of what we stand for in the world, or what we’re capable of doing, than our armed forces.
So to share this moment of celebration for 226 young men and women
and their families and friends, makes this a very special day for me.
Sandhurst is one of the greatest training institutions in the world.
Today there are 21 officers being commissioned from 13 countries
From Afghanistan to Yemen, from Rwanda to Bahrain
From China to Kosovo, to Swaziland and the United States of America.
And we’re very proud that you’ve all come here for your training.
And as newly commissioned officers, you are all following in the footsteps of nearly 200 years of history.
The first intake of cadets who started here in 1812 included people who went on to fight at the battle of Waterloo.
Within twelve months many of you can expect to be on operations yourselves.
There will be huge challenges ahead.
But as you leave here today, I hope you will take three things with you.
First, pride in what you have achieved.
Second, pride in the Army you’re going to join
And third, pride in what you are going to do.
Let me take each in turn.
Pride in what you’ve achieved
You’ve been through 44 weeks of the toughest and the best training that anyone could have.
Outwardly you are fitter, leaner and stronger.
Inwardly more confident, more sure of your abilities and your own limits.
Of course, you’ll all have many memories of your time here.
Just yesterday I spoke to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi who said how much he missed being here.
Many have passed out of here and risen to great prominence.
There’s a story I like about one who it’s said was sent by his Sergeant Major to march down the King’s Walk to apologise to Queen Victoria’s statue for being such an idle officer on drill.
After which the young cadet was seen marching back to his college and not to the drill square.
When he was summoned back - the young cadet responded that Her Majesty had accepted his apology but had observed that he had looked rather tired and that he should go and get some rest!
This is an incredibly tough place to succeed.
And rightly so. Many don’t make it.
Half of those who apply here don’t get accepted in the first place.
Nearly a sixth of those who pass in, don’t pass out.
It’s a great testament to the strength and endurance of those of you here today.
The army advert says “be the best”
And that’s exactly what you are.
And you should take pride in that.
Pride in the army you’re going to join
The second thing I want you to take away is pride in the army you’re going to join.
For the Brits among you - you are quite simply becoming part of the army with the greatest history in the world.
You will have studied the tactics of soldiers in battles from Agincourt to Allemagne. Tales of bravery that ring out through the centuries.
I know you will follow in that tradition. I can see that today because of what our forces have done and are doing in Afghanistan.
In my generation alone I’ve seen the Army deployed in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Balkans, West Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Each of which has posed different challenges, but in each of which our men and women have served with great distinction.
But the secret of success I believe is this:
That despite the technology of today, an army is an intensely human business, based on personal relationships and the ability of young newly commissioned officers to lead men and women in the face of danger.
There’s no greater honour that a nation can bestow than the trust to lead your fellow men and women.
And that is the task you will have.
Pride in what you’re going to do
So the third thing I want you to take away is pride in what you’re going to do.
The challenges you face over the coming years will place demands on you experienced by few others of your age in the world today.
Many of you will be deployed to Afghanistan.
Whenever I visit Afghanistan, I’m struck not just by the incredible bravery of our soldiers, but by everything else they have to do.
They’re superb athletes, fantastically fit and able.
They are technically competent. Because the equipment now is far more complicated than anything previous generations have had.
And they’re also diplomats, because this is not about two armies facing each other. It is a war amongst the people.
It’s about handling all sorts of difficult situations as you work with the local people.
From the village shura, to the local army and police.
Your training here has given you the best possible start. You will need to continue to develop all these skills and more.
But I want you to be proud of the difference that you can make.
The security of our nation - and that of our allies across the world - is at stake.
If we leave Afghanistan now, Al Qaeda will again use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack the West.
I say - we cannot let that happen.
But it’s what you will do that will actually prevent it. You will be helping to defend our way of life.
And there is no greater calling than that.
Your country will have pride in you
And in return for all you will give to your country, I want your country to have pride in you.
As a government we will do everything we can to support you, to look after your families and to rebuild the Military Covenant that is so important to this Government - and I believe this country.
First and foremost that means supporting you.
People expect us to do the right thing by you. And we will.
There are difficult decisions ahead but I will never forget that defence of the nation is the first duty of any government.
But today is about you and what you will do. About your service.
A former soldier once said:
“what we do for ourselves alone dies with us; what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
What you do will never be forgotten.
So take pride in it.
I wish you all the very best for the future.
And once again congratulations on this very special day.