'Fly-In' offers business leaders clearer Army picture
September 26, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 26, 2008) -- Some 35 Indiana business executives got a crash course on the U.S. Army Thursday during a visit to the Pentagon that capped off a two-day visit to the nation's capital.
The men and women, members of the Northeast Indiana Chamber Coalition, represented six counties in Indiana and major companies like Verizon and Wire America.
The Army has for several years invited groups of business leaders to the Pentagon for a short briefing about the Army to dispel myths about its Soldiers, programs and roles around the world.
Typically referred to as a "Fly-In," the partnership program is administered by the Army Executive Partnerships office, under the director of the Army staff, said AEP spokesman David Corey.
Maj. Gen. Vincent Boles, the Army's assistant deputy chief of staff for G-4, logistics, said the Indiana group was in town to meet with their state representatives on Capitol Hill. The coalition works for citizens of Indiana by sharing their views and concerns with lawmakers and affecting public policy, according to a coalition spokesman.
The Army does not pay transportation, lodging or per diem costs of visiting business groups. "We simply invite them to the Pentagon [as an add-on to their business trip] to get an education about the Army," Boles said.
"We do it so they can, when they have the opportunity, support our Soldiers with job opportunities, and influence the 'influencers,' as we call the moms and dads who decide whether or not [a young man or woman] enlists in the Army," Boles said
"I'm not a Soldier in the Army," Boles told the group. "I'm a Soldier in your Army. I work for you," he said, adding, "We're here to provide everything from domestic and humanitarian relief around the world to, God forbid, [a response to the threat of] nuclear war."
Boles provided then and now snapshots of the Army, to better inform the group about where the Army has been, where it's headed, and how business leaders can support America's servicemembers.
He compared the number of troop deployments from 1959 to 1989 and 1989 to 2007. During the earlier period, there were 10 major deployments over 30 years. During the latter 18 years, there were 43 deployments. And the number of active-duty and Reserve divisions has decreased, from 28 during the Cold-War era, to 18 today.
"Clearly, the Army faces more missions today with fewer Soldiers. People think we're just in Afghanistan and Iraq," Boles added. "Many people don't realize we have Soldiers all over the world, some 18,000 are in South Korea, 47,000 are in U.S. Army Europe, and there are 12,000 in Alaska.
"We have Soldiers in the Philippines and some 5,000 who have been pulled from their National Guard and Reserve units to pull homeland-security duty," Boles said.
During the era of the "broken Army," as the 1965 to 1975 period is known, "I remember being counseled by Army officials not to wear my uniform on public transportation, Boles said.
"Today, our Soldiers wear their uniforms everywhere," he said. It's a testament to the high level of public support today's Soldiers enjoy. "Today, we have a proud Army."
Boles talked about high re-enlistment rates, which are "the highest in our deployed units," the 90-percent survival rate for Soldiers injured in combat, and the fact that more people -- 170,000 annually -- enlist in the Army than in the Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard combined.
To dispel any myth about the quality of Soldiers coming into the Army today, Boles said during the Vietnam era 40 percent of Soldiers didn't have a high school diploma. Today, every one of the 170,000 Soldiers who enlists each year has a high school equivalency certificate and 81 percent actually graduated from high school.
In a "Boots-On-The-Ground" segment of the briefing, Lt. Col. Ken Spielvogel, who returned from Afghanistan 18 months ago, where he served with the Ministry of Energy and Water, provided real-life stories about his work with the Afghan people.
He shared good-news stories about progress that has been made in a land where some people have never experienced the benefits of electricity and clean drinking water.
Lt. Col. Stephen Gomillion, an Iraq-war veteran, spoke about inroads being made by the U.S. Army in that country.
Much progress has been made in the war on terror, Boles said. And every Soldier who enters the Army today knows what he's getting into when he commits to service to his country.
"You can help Soldiers just by being here and by thanking a Soldier for his service when you see him," Boles told the visitors. "That'll make his day.
"Support the Guard and Reserve, whose members oftentimes have small businesses, and be the type of citizen worthy of our Soldiers' support," Boles said.