VCSA speech at the U.S. Army Recruiting Command Annual Leadership Training Conference
November 14, 2008
Thank you Tom. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this week's events. For those of you who don't know, General Bostick and I go way back. We served together in the First Cavalry Division as we ramped up for Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
Later, in Baghdad, he was the commander of the Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division. And it was his vision that helped us realize the potential impacts of local projects employing local contractors.
Those contractors employed local labor achieving local results. Those local results accumulated and created incredible changes in places like Sadr City.
General Bostick commented a few weeks back that recruiting of today's volunteers into the Army is not only the Army's mission, but it is the Nation's mission.
A powerful, powerful statement - one that deeply examines how we approach the charge our nation bestows on us gathered here today.
That statement happens to be what I want to talk to you about this morning.
Now, I won't leave you with any grand epiphanies. There won't be 'I coulda had a V8' moments - but if we can spark the conversation... not only among ourselves, but across the nation in how we invest in our collective future - then we are moving in the right direction.
As I look at the challenge we have presented you, I see the answer lies in the way General Bostick approached the Gulf Region Division - national issues being solved at the local level achieving incredible results.
In Iraq, it was meeting the Iraqi's where they were at - not where we wanted them to be. It was a coordinated effort of military hard power and diplomatic and economic soft power seeking to achieve local results.
And in the same vein -- As the United States Recruiting Command, we have to meet our customer - meet America - 'where they are at'... not where we want them to be.
The front line soldiers of USAREC are the Recruiters - the work they do at the community - at the local level -- far outweighs any traditional marketing campaign.
Look at what's going on around us in the world today!
When you take a step back, you realize there are some incredible changes that are starting to become a reality.
Doing a bit of analysis, it clearly shows us all that the world is dramatically and rapidly changing.
Experts have been predicting these trends for years now... yet today, they are becoming a reality - right before our eyes.
First. The population of the planet is growing like never before. By 2012 the world's population will have increased by another billion people. This increase will have happened in a little less than 13 years. Some estimate that by 2050, we will be 10 billion strong. In fact, in a little less than the hour we have todya, there will be 10,000 babies born.
Don't worry... we won't start adjusting your mission just yet.
Second. There has been a migration of people to urban centers. One estimate is that by the end of 2008, over 50% of the world's population will reside in urban areas.
Yet there is little in the way many cities are compensating for such an explosive growth.
It's leading to 'super slums'. I spent two years dealing with one such a super slum. Sadr City. A six by eight kilometer area on the northeast side of Baghdad. 2.5 million inhabitants.
You know, as I reflect back to my time as a young Armor officer, I was instructed that armor formations should bypass built-up areas -- bypass cities -- and at all costs avoid large urban areas.
Yet as a Division commander, I was told to go ahead and occupy a city of about 7.5 million people, 276 square miles... about the same physical size as Austin, but 10 times its population.
I think things have changed a bit.
Third. Resources are the fault-lines of conflict. Add the explosion of population growth, the convergence into urban centers, the incredible growth of emerging markets such as China and India - and you can see the obvious outcome. And it is happening now.
Last. The emergence of an information based society, riding the backbone of the internet. Virtual Terrain. It is creating a level of connectivity and collaboration that spans the globe and brings people together like never before - both for good and bad reasons.
Reality today is that every soldier we recruit and later employ - and every savvy terrorist we encounter -- has a cell phone capable of taking a picture - or video for that matter - and can transmit it half way around the world in a matter of seconds. Think of the iReport on CNN. YouTube. MySpace. Facebook.
These factors: the breakneck speed of growth of the planet, the migration towards unplanned urban sprawl, and the growing scarcity of resources -- is creating a morass of disenfranchised generations.
Add to the mix an increasing level of global connectivity, you begin to see it as a perfect breeding ground for state and non-state extremists who see opportunity in those who have no hope.
We are seeing the rise of trans-national actors who do not acknowledge the frameworks and bureaucratic processes of the state, yet use those very frameworks to create an asymmetric advantage. Creating global turmoil and instability.
Now add to the pot an economic meltdown of historic proportions - in many ways tied to the flattening of the world's economies aided by information technologies - we see chaos in the markets where confidence is at an all time low.
This is the world we live in. This is the reality of our generation and for generations that will follow.
The world has changed. Warfare has changed. The needs of our nation have changed.
At the center of these global pressure points... at the center of the chaos these trends are causing... stands the Soldier and their families - who act on behalf of the nation to defend our way of life. To defend our values.
And they have done an incredible job.
Our soldiers have adapted at an unprecedented rate. From an Army extremely comfortable and happy to 'close with and destroy the enemy' -- to an Army that can organize and apply all the elements of national power. Hard power and soft power.
They can balance and manipulate the environment in ways we old guys could have never imagined. They are as comfortable using cash to create non-kinetic effects as they are with using a .50 cal to create a kinetic effect.
Huba Wass de Czega called the operational art 'a skill: taking an unstructured problem and giving it enough structure so that planning can lead to useful action.' Our youngest leaders have created in themselves the ability to apply the operational art to the complexity and confusion of modern wars.
Many of us wish we could return to the days when armies fought and others were responsible for fixing what we broke. Those days are pretty much gone forever.
If you've ever heard of the 'three block war' - coined by General Charles Krulak back in 1999 - where you are 'confronted by the entire spectrum of tactical challenges in the span of a few hours and within the space of three continuous city blocks' - you have a feel for what Full Spectrum Operations feels like to our soldiers today.
It resides somewhere between the extremes of Kinetic and Non-Kinetic. And in reality it includes elements of both - all the time - shifting constantly - sometimes without warning.
Our Soldiers live and fight there everyday. It is what you are bringing to the force that is allowing us to be decisive in the confusion of modern conflict.
We must persistently engage across the planet to prevent the possibility of persistent conflict. It is a broader definition of what is considered the norm - opening up the aperture a bit wider and a bit deeper to gain an appreciation to how we need to prepare our Army for the next few generations.
These are information based conflicts that demand soldiers and leaders who are motivated. That demand Soldiers and leaders who can clearly understand the impact their actions can have on the global stage.
If you know Clausewitz, you know the idea that war is an extension of politics. And if you accept the premise that politics is advocating an idea to create advantage ....then you can make the leap that we are, and have always been, in a war of ideas.
The primacy of an idea can only be achieved through action and the results of actions.
Years ago it was the primacy of the East vs the West. The Eagle and the Bear waging a conflict through proxies across the globe. Today it is Liberty versus Fundamentalism. Freedom versus extremism.
And the reality is: we cannot win, we cannot achieve the primacy of an idea unless there is force to back up the idea. Action gives weight.
Which is why today, more than ever - intelligent, agile, adaptive soldiers and leaders are the key to maintaining the primacy of our idea - "That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..."
This is why you sitting here today are so vitally important.
What you do for our country is simply incredible. It is fundamentally the most challenging mission we have as an Army on the homefront.
I equate the mission you perform with the missions those you have recruited are conducting across the mountains flanking the Khyber Pass, or deep in the Palm Groves and Deserts of Iraq.
Victory starts with you. If we in this room are not successful, our nation cannot accomplish its mission.
The idea of an All Volunteer Force -- ground in the legacy of volunteer militias in places like Concord and Lexington -- codified by Presidential Decree in July of 1973 -- is to me, and should be acknowledged by a grateful Nation, as a living National Treasure.
Now I just gotta say this - if you read yesterday's article in the Washington Times... you read that the Army needs QUOTE 'Rebuilding' and that Bonuses and inducements are 'Band-aids'.
You see, we have not completed the education of our Nation in what it means to be supplied with an All Volunteer Force. That it is a living national treasure. A treasure that must be cultivated and nurtured with great care. It must be tended to as it reflects the very best our society has to offer.
It is obvious to me everyday, that we have asked the ordinary American Citizen - and their family - to frankly be extraordinary.
Friday, I pinned a Distinguished Service Cross on SSG Chris Waiters. The 17th DSC awarded since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism. SSG Waiters, a combat medic who, while under fire from multiple directions charged across 80 meters of open ground to pull two Soldiers from a burning vehicle.
After pulling them to safety, he found out there was another Soldier in the back of the vehicle. Again, he charged back into the fray.
Extraordinary -- it sends chills down my spine at the level of competence and capability our soldiers display today. You have brought those soldiers into our Army.
Along those same lines, in the military communities throughout this nation there are spouses and children deathly afraid to answer an unforeseen knock on the door -- for fear the knock may forever change their life. There is a strain and sacrifice military families are dealing with day in and day out - year after year - deployment after deployment.
That is Extraordinary.
Yet what concerns me... what worries me... is the level of investment by our nation in those who have...and are serving. There seems to be a level of awareness missing that does not really understand that the fate of our nation -- our way of life -- is in the hands of a little less than half of one percent of the nation's populace.
What concerns me when I look across this room ... is the enormous stress we are putting on you and your families. We are asking you to make incredible sacrifices in time -- incredible sacrifices in effort -- incredible sacrifices asked of your spouses and your children.
Many of our best recruiters are living with the cumulative effects of multiple deployments... and are now compounded by one of the most challenging missions we can ever ask of you.
We are asking you to sift through the talent pool to find the Sergeant Chris Waiters... to convince the best, and to enlist the best on behalf of the nation.
Simply put, we are asking YOU and your families... to 'once again' be...extraordinary.
And you are. You are demonstrating it every day. The statistics tell us the news. We are meeting and exceeding the nation's needs.
You have been presented with an unbelievable requirement in a time of war, with a Nation that is seemingly pre-occupied with itself, and you are producing the SSG Chris Waiters of the world.
You are the unsung heroes of this war. Never forget that. The nation owes you a debt of gratitude that can only be measured by the results we see around the world.
Recognition for what you do is difficult to come by. It is hard, unforgiving work.
And I salute you all.
It is amazing how you've figured out what General Bostick figured out in Baghdad in 2004. That, in a phrase: 'you must and are meeting America where they are at'.
You have figured out that this generation is probably one of the most astute and most connected generations this planet has ever seen. They intuitively have a greater understanding of world around them by the simple connectivity of the virtual domain.
They exist and thrive simultaneously in places many of us could not possibly conceive even a few short years ago. We can marvel that they live in a MySpace world connected by text messages, surfing the internet on the latest 'hotness'.
And we have to be there, where they are at.
Remember - you are our message. Live the message. You are THE embodiment of core values. The example you set, like your first Drill Sergeant, your first Platoon sergeant, is one that will resonate with them through an enlistment process.
They want you to be real. And if it's done right, they want to BE you.
You were all chosen because of your qualities - your leadership in combat, your leadership in the training areas, your leadership in the motorpool. Proven, capable, confident... it is what makes you, the junior leaders -- perfect for this challenge. You are the message.
I see incredible marketing campaigns targeted to create interest. But it is just one arrow in the quiver - by far the biggest arrow is the personal connection. It is tangible. It's real.
There are definitely ways we as senior officers need to pull ourselves in at the personal level. If we are going to pull this into the National conversation, then we have to take the opportunity to engage, educate and gain support of influencers at the local and regional level.
There are the community leaders and industry leaders who are committed to supporting the troops - and are hungry to learn how. There are others who have probably never really thought that about the prospect of support - and need to be engaged.
There are amazing bright spots of support out there - efforts like Operation Mend, where the medical community of UCLA, recognizing that they have an expertise, and that they have an obligation as American Citizens - have become valued partners in helping our wounded soldiers recover.
How do we tap into this incredible desire we are seeing' How do we extend the option to community leaders, industry leaders - centers of influence to leverage a national desire to serve'
Just take a look at how local communities around our posts, camps and stations have formed unbreakable bonds with the military communities. The hard question - and the real challenge for us here -- is how you create that same bond as you move away from those same posts, camps, and stations.
That is why we are here. We must figure out how to tap into the obligation every citizen knows is there... and then translate that for them into a re-invigoration into the health of our Force.
USAREC is doing this well.
I am very proud of how you have displayed the 'learning organization' qualities so important to remaining competitive in an extremely competitive world.
Leveraging grass-roots ideas. Better ideas on how to connect and establish lasting bonds. Better ideas on how to bring those that may not meet every requirement into the fold.
An absolutely amazing idea in the Army Prep School out at Fort Jackson. Though many at higher levels of DOD aren't big fans of this program - it is intuitive to me that this is an incredible opportunity to give back. High quality youth that may not have the educational credentials -- but know they want to serve. It is being proactive to the environment rather than reactive.
The Army Advantage Fund - home ownership and small business loans. The American Dream.
It is again an example of how we are our message. We value the individual as an integral member of the Armed Forces. And we will work with you to help you achieve your goals.
It is meeting them where they are at.
As I close out my comments this morning and open it up for questions - a few final thoughts.
Number 1 -- We have to continue to be rigorous in our assessments. Programs and ideas that are not achieving the return on investment we desire must be re-evaluated if not producing.
Make no mistake in this - to me the biggest bang for the buck is where the Sergeant is located. When he or she is meeting America where they are at - THAT is the biggest return on investment we can ask for.
Number 2. The Army - HQDA -- is wrestling with a few converging problem sets: Whether the force structure we have is adequate for the demand being put on the force ... and the implications of an economic slow down.
What that means to me is that we may emerge from an analysis that tells us we need to increase our force structure at the same time the ripple effects from an economic slow down increase in the available talent pool.
What that means for you is that we will probably ask you to re-evaluate who we allow into the force at the same time we will be asking for a higher number of volunteers.
So the challenge tomorrow will be no less challenging than it is today. But I'm confident of USARECs capabilities.
Three. I want you to remember that as much as we ask of you, we must take care and look after each other. Much the same way our squad leaders and team leaders take care of their soldiers and their families.
Now more than ever we witnessing the compounding effects of multiple deployments. We have to attack this head on.
So you have to look each other in the eye everyday. Challenge yourselves, yet balance the stress.
The Army is comprised of teams - and we have to keep that team strong. It is only through addressing the challenges we all have in front of us - from a position of strength, the strength of a team, will we all emerge to a better place.
That's why I love the 3rd Brigade's 'fire team' approach to recruiting. It is leveraging the strengths of the team to achieve something profound. Success -- redefined as a team outcome. You look after each other in an effort to strengthen the whole.
I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak to this team. There is no doubt, the mission the United States Recruiting Command has taken on is one of the most difficult and challenging endeavors our Army and Nation face.
The National Treasure of the all-volunteer force starts here... with the work of you in this room -- Finding and harnessing the creative talents of a nation to win the war of ideas.
It is at the local level, the grass-roots -- meeting America where they are at... mhere the rubber from your boots meets the nation. It is the recognition that local solutions breed national results.
I thank you for your time, I thank you for your attention this morning. I thank you again, for all that you do. I cannot be more proud of the United States Army Recruiting Command. The men and women who serve this nation, have their start in this room. Thank you.