Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli at the CNAS Panel on Officership in a Time of War, Oct. 01, 2008
October 24, 2008
General Peter W. Chiarelli
CNAS Panel on Officership in a Time of War
01 October 2008
I want to thank the Center for a New American Security and Michelle Flournoy for hosting today's panel on Officership in a Time of War. CNAS has been incredible in bringing together differing viewpoints. I consider it an honor to be invited...and an even greater honor to be sitting on this panel with such a distinguished group of members.
John Nagl has and continues to be an intellectual engine of change for our Army. A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I consider it a personal failure that we have allowed John to move on from the active Army. His remarkable examination of how militaries learn and adapt has been a standard for our Army in defining what right looks like. His own passion and amazing willpower helped craft the most recent version of the Army's counterinsurgency manual.
Jason Fritz. A three tour veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thirty-three months total. Jason led the Army into Iraq riding with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry of the Third Infantry Division. Then back again fighting an insurgency in OIF III. Then again as part of our surge forces last year. Jason has been deployed almost half the time he has been in the Army. Thirty-three months out of six years.
If anything, Jason symbolizes the thousands of young leaders who are fighting this war who are struggling with the cumulative effects of multiple deployments and making hard choices.
Bill Murphy. The author of 'In a Time of War'. He spent the last few years conducting an incredible number of interviews with the extended military family of the West Point class of 2002. Many who I personally know and admire. As a reservist, Bill served our Nation for over 18 months during the opening years of this conflict.
It is an honor to sit on this panel with all of you.
We've been in a long fight. Almost seven years of continuous operations across multiple theaters. And the Nation has asked a lot of our soldiers and their families.
We have asked for an incredible level of sacrifice; we've asked ordinary Americans, who have volunteered and raised their right hand...solemnly swearing an oath 'to support and defend the constitution against all enemies'... to be extraordinary.
They are extraordinary. And we would be remiss if we did not consider the All Volunteer Force a living National Treasure.
And we must continue to invest in that National treasure. For those watching the war unfold from afar, you would be literally amazed at the leader transformation occurring in our Force.
Our young leaders are being forged and tempered by the experience of multiple combat tours. They think differently...and truly understand how a pint of sweat in training - to paraphrase George Patton - will later save a gallon of blood in war.
Their mind, body, and soul are intently focused on folding the fundamentals learned through experience into preparation for the next deployment.
We've harnessed and cultivated an incredible level of agility in our junior leaders that is simply breathtaking. Their depth and breadth of experience in many cases far outweighs any senior military officer sitting in a position of authority today.
And because of this simple reality they must have a voice. We, the senior leadership of the military and our nation must listen.
They are shouldering an enormous burden for all of us. The sacrifices of their brothers and sisters who will never come home, and who may be forever scarred can never be forgotten. They are the foundation of our National Treasure.
We all must remember that in military communities throughout this nation there are spouses young and old, and their children, who cringe when they hear an unexpected knock on the door for fear that it may forever change their life. And they do this day after day...month after month...year after year.
Though local communities have created formal and informal covenants with their military families, we have to figure out a way to keep the nation invested in the soldiers and their families who are living with the crushing effects of multiple deployments, but who refuse to accept anything but a win on behalf of the nation.
It is not just the immediate communities outside the posts, camps and stations who should be supporting our military and their families. It should be an American Initiative.
Let me make a few concluding remarks about the profession.
That officer corps is a profession. Not unlike the medical or the legal profession. And like the medical or legal profession we are very, very critical of ourselves...all in an intense desire to get better, and win. Because not winning in this profession means you or those under you...die. To paraphrase Hal Moore: there are no second place trophies in this profession.
It is important...vitally important that we continue to foster debate within the profession. We see great bottom up driven examples of the professional dialogue among young leaders who are driving conversations in the professional journals or virtual communities.
Officers, and even our Non-commissioned officers, with multiple deployments under their belts have found it necessary...imperative to channel their experience into intellectual forums. They are pushing the tactics and doctrine of an Army at War. Leveraging their social networks to rapidly learn and disseminate the lessons and hardships of families and soldiers. They push themselves because their soldiers, their families, and their peers demand it.
But in some ways, we can be pretty schizophrenic. We have an incredible 'can do' culture. But that same cultural trait sometimes creates an intellectual blind spot. What we say to ourselves doesn't necessarily match with what we do...and it can turn professional dialogue into a toxic event.
We must continue to cultivate the brightest officers from within the ranks who do not agree with the party line.
A younger Eisenhower and Patton after World War I encountered incredible institutional antibodies when they took a position advocating the tank in modern warfare. As Stephen Ambrose wrote: "[they] were true pioneers, original and creative in their thought. But the Army was not pleased."
There are Eisenhower's and Patton's out there today. The Nagl's and the Yingling's, pushing us out of our comfort zone and into intellectual territories we may not like, but must explore.
Officership is about service. It's about service to a higher calling. It's about service to those you lead. The young soldiers and officers you see sprinkled among the crowd here today are a pretty humble crowd...and will rarely talk about the incredible sacrifice they or their soldiers have endured on behalf of the nation.
Yet they stand in a quiet sense of commitment ... heroes. In spite of the grinding stress of multiple tours and the cumulative effects wearing on them and their families, they Soldier on. Not because they necessarily want to, but because the nation demands it. They hear the nation's call.
What I hope today, is that our nation and our Army are listening too.