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Feb 27 2020

LANDCOM COMMANDER TALKS NATO, LIFE AS A U.S. ARMY SOLDIER TO URLA GERMAN EMBASSY SCHOOL STUDENTS

IZMIR, Turkey — Lieutenant General J.T. Thomson visited the German Embassy School in Urla Tuesday, February 25, 2020, to share his experience as a U.S. Army soldier and Commander of NATO Allied Land Command with the students there.

The visit, a result of a personal invitation by the head of school, Mr. Joachim Kanthak, was a chance for the LANDCOM Commander to see the educational support afforded LANDCOM’s German contingent. It was also a chance to educate the students and teachers on the NATO Alliance.

The Principal began the visit with a tour of the school grounds before introducing Lieutenant General Thomson to a group of senior students and their teachers for discussions. Naturally, he received a variety of questions spanning a variety of topics.

“There is a special place in our heart for the soldiers,” answered Lieutenant General Thomson when asked about the different views of the army in different nations. "I am a big believer in NATO," he added, emphasizing that NATO is an Alliance of 29 nations locked arm in arm every day.

There is a special place in our heart for the soldiers

He then took the opportunity to introduce the concept of NATO and LANDCOM’s role in the Alliance to the students, explaining to them the importance of good relationships between NATO members and NATO’s partner countries. He also reminded them NATO’s focus is defensive in nature and the Alliance places a high importance on joint exercises and readiness.

"What we do is deterrence. Deter war. To have credible deterrence you have to have the credibility and will to use it,” Lieutenant General Thomson added.



He challenged the students, who are graduating this summer, to explore for themselves what they planned to pursue in their future professional studies and careers. The commander gave them a tip that had served him well in his own endeavors.

"I do not believe in luck,” he said. “Nothing is because of luck. I will tell you that the harder you work, the luckier you will get." The students pressed him to expand on what he meant by this statement. In his response, Lieutenant General Thomson quoted the Roman philosopher Seneca.

"Luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” he said. “What you are doing right now at school is preparing for life. Opportunity will come," he continued, encouraging them to make their own luck rather than wait for things to happen. He reminded the students that finishing school does not mean the end of gaining knowledge. Rather, it is just a beginning.

"Learning is a lifelong endeavor. It does not end when you finish school. It goes on and on and on,” he said.

Nothing is because of luck. I will tell you that the harder you work, the luckier you will get

Asked about the significance of the war, Lieutenant General Thomson said it is the “last resort”, and although we are lucky to enjoy peace in our home countries, we should “not take for granted what we have in the countries we live in.” He also highlighted the dedication and sacrifice that comes with being a soldier.

"In the army there are some things you do. You do what your boss tells you to do, you stay focused on the mission, and you take care of people. There are a lot of sacrifices you make," he said.


Before the meeting concluded, the students inquired about Lieutenant General Thomson’s motivation to become the commander of LANDCOM and the reasons he chose to serve as long as he had as a U.S. Army soldier.

“There is only one reason I'm still in the army today,” he stated. “I wake up every day, I love going to work...it’s about the people you're around. You're around people that have signed up to be a part of a team, to be something larger than themselves,” said Lieutenant General Thomson.

“Those are people I love being around...On October 1, my last day in the U.S. Army...I will not miss the Army that day. I will miss the people," he said.

I wake up every day, I love going to work...it’s about the people you're around. You're around people that have signed up to be a part of a team, to be something larger than themselves

Story and photos by Jakub Klepek, LANDCOM Public Affairs

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