Mar. 24, 2009- Army Women's Foundation Luncheon
April 10, 2009
Thank you very much, Dee. I always get nervous when people talk about my time at Georgetown. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd be sitting in an office in the Pentagon with a view of Georgetown. And yesterday we moved back into our historic spaces in the Pentagon, where we were since 1947 until we moved about five years ago down the hall. And now I have a view of Georgetown from the office. Amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.
Ann Dunwoody, welcome. It's great to see you here. Sergeant Major Mellinger, Sergeant Major Pritchett. It's wonderful to see you all.
Again, Dee, thanks for the kind introduction. For all the members of the Army Women's Foundation, thank you for all you do, for keeping the contributions of our Army women alive for everybody.
A special congratulations today to two of the members here, Brigadier General Pat Foote and Sergeant Major Cindy Pritchett. [Applause]. They're the two Hall of Fame inductees for today.
As you all know, this is Women's History Month. No one knows it better than poor Ann Dunwoody. She's about "women's historied" out. [Laughter]. But every time we have one of these months, I go to the Center for Military History and I say "give me a history ... tell me about the history of women in our Army." They'll churn for a couple of weeks, and they'll come back. This time they spit out a twenty-two-page paper, and it was fascinating. Here's a few tidbits.
Mary Walker was one of the first female physicians in the United States. She became a military surgeon during the Civil War and was awarded a Medal of Honor in 1865 by General Phil Sheridan.
1901 ... Army Nurse Corps established, before World War I.
1943 ... Women's Army Corps established, during World War II.
What you see as you go through the history is that necessity really was the mother of invention with the Army pushing women increasingly into new roles. Every time they got short of men or thought they were, they tried to figure out how to use women more.
1970 ... the year I came in the Army and 27 years after the creation of the Women's Army Corps, we had our first female brigadier generals - Anna Mae Hays and Elizabeth Hoisington.
1973 ... the first year women were accepted into ROTC. It seems striking how commonplace that is today.
1976 ... women admitted to West Point. Remember the brouhaha that surrounded that' "It will never work," they said.
1978 ... Women's Army Corps disestablished. That same year Mary Clarke became the first female two-star general.
1997 ... 19 years after we appointed the first female two-star, Claudia Kennedy became the first female three-star.
Then 11 years after that - 38 years after I entered the Army - I had the honor to promote our first female four-star, Ann Dunwoody. [Applause].
I had the opportunity to spend Saturday down at AMC Headquarters with Ann and her staff, talking over the magnitude of things that our "Fortune 100 Company" is doing here for our Army. It's phenomenal, Ann. Thanks very much.
What I'm going to show you now, I used at Ann's promotion, but I think it is an indicator of how far we have come as an Army. In June 1975 - the same month and year that Ann was commissioned - we commissioned a study in the Army by the Army Research Institute. The study was entitled, "Attitudes Concerning Job Appropriateness for Women in the Army." This compiled data from a survey of Army men and women, officer and enlisted, and they rank-ordered what the men and women of the Army thought were the most appropriate jobs for women ... this is 1975. This will be an audience participation exercise. [Laughter].
How many people think that the number one job for women in the Army was nurse' Okay. How many people think the number one job in the Army was cook' How many think the number one job was social services'
The cooks were right. Ninety-eight percent of the men and almost 98 percent of the women said that cook was the most appropriate job. This happened in our lifetime! [Laughter].
As you go down the list, it gets even better. For example, one of the jobs was commanding a mixed-sex company. I'm just going to leave that alone. [Laughter]. Less than 70 percent of the male officers thought this was an appropriate job for women; but 85 percent of the women thought it was an appropriate job. It was about the same results for pilots. Only 63 percent of the male officers thought it was appropriate for women; but 83 percent of the female officers thought so. In fact, Ann Dunwoody's sister was a pilot who came in about that time.
What's striking here, as I said, is how far we've come, frankly, in my lifetime. And we're not resting on our laurels. It's amazing to me ... and not surprising really ... what people can accomplish when they're given the opportunity. That's the story of women in our Army. Our Army is the Strength of this Nation, and our diversity is the strength of our Army. So how about giving yourselves a big round of applause here' [Applause].
Speaking of our Army, let me give you a short update on where we are. The two questions I get most around the Army are: how's the Army doing and where are we going' So let me just take a second on that.
I wrestled hard with trying to find the right terms to describe the Army today. Because sometimes you hear people saying "it's broken, it's hollow," and that's just not true. This is the most resilient, professional, combat-seasoned force that I have been associated with in 38 years of service. It's a remarkable force. But it is tired, and it is stretched. And our Families are tired and stretched.
So I came up with the term that we're "out of balance." That we're so weighed down by our current commitments that we can't do the things that we know we need to do to sustain this volunteer force through this trying period. This is the longest the country has ever been at war with a volunteer force. So to some extent, we are in uncharted waters. We also don't have the time at home to build the flexibility that we need to do things other than irregular warfare.
So we put ourselves on a plan two years ago, centered on four imperatives, to put ourselves back in balance by the end of 2011. You think, "wow." But I'll tell you, when an organization of 1.1 million people, especially one that is at war and deploying 150,000 Soldiers over and back every year ... 60 to 70,000 of those Guardsmen and Reservists who are mobilized, trained, and then sent ... you don't put yourself back in balance overnight.
We said there were four things we needed to do to get the Army back in balance ... four imperatives. I'll give you all four, then I'll talk a little bit about each one. First, sustain Soldiers and Families. Second, continue to prepare Soldiers for success in the current conflict. Third, reset them effectively when they return from combat. Fourth, continue to transform for an uncertain future. Let me just say a few words about each of those.
First of all, our Soldiers are the heart and soul of our Army. They are what make this the most effective Army in the world. Over half of our Soldiers are married or are single parents. It is largely a married force. So to sustain our Soldiers, we have to sustain our Families. In 2007, we launched the Army Family Covenant where we, the Army, restated our commitment to Families, then we doubled the amount of money that we're putting toward Soldier and Family programs -- $1.7 billion in '08; $1.7 billion in '09. And we intend to continue that.
The Families, I will tell you, God bless them, are tired. We had a session at the Army Family Action Plan conference here a couple of months ago. A young woman stood up ... and it was a very bubbly time ... a lot of spirit ... well, she raised her hand and said, "General, I just want you to remember me because my husband is getting ready to go back for his third tour, and he just returned from his second tour. I'm weary." And she burst into tears. That's how it is out there. We shouldn't ignore that or try to walk away from that, so we're doing everything we can to sustain our Families so that we sustain our Soldiers.
Second, prepare Soldiers for success in the current conflict. We have improved light years in our ability to get the equipment in the hands of our Soldiers. When I was over in Iraq it took ... and Sergeant Major Mellinger was running this all the time ... but it probably took us 2.5 to 3 years to get the troops outfitted fully with up-armored HMMWVs. We just outfitted both theaters with Mine-Resistant Armor Protected Vehicles in about six months. So we're making great strides there. Every time I see a Soldier in the field I ask him, "Are you satisfied with your equipment' Is it okay'" Except for the occasional guy I run into who wants another gun, we're okay.
We're doing a great job of training. I went to the National Training Center. They have contracted with Hollywood set designers. They made an Iraqi city in the middle of the desert. When I walked down the street, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I thought I was back in Iraq. So they are getting absolutely realistic training.
We're having some manning challenges. We're having some challenges getting the folks with the right skills to the right place at the right time, and we're not getting there in all cases in time for the training. So they're having to do some extra stuff on the way up. That's going to improve over time.
I think you know that the President directed us to increase the size of the Army by 74,000 Soldiers in 2007. We achieved our active component end strength in January. It was originally supposed to be done in 2012, so that speaks volumes to our ability to recruit great Americans into the Army, each of them knowing that we're at war and they'll have to serve. And we're retaining these great troops.
Aside from those manning challenges, we're doing very well in preparing our Soldiers for success.
Third is resetting. I had a senator tell me, "General, that sounds like something I do to my computer." What we mean by that is taking Soldiers and units and equipment that have been gone for a year, resting them, and gradually fixing them so they can get ready to go back again. And the most important thing that we can do to bring this Army back in balance is to ensure that we have enough time at home in between deployments to effectively reset the forces. We've been having 12 months at home and that's not enough to effectively reset them. They meet themselves coming and going because they're no sooner home, get about 30 days leave, and, if they're going back in 12 months, then they're already starting to train again.
As we increase our size and draw down in Iraq, what's going to happen is that the amount of time Soldiers spend at home is going to increase. Next year, almost to one year out, two years back; the year after that, if the drawdown continues on plan, one year out, almost two-and-a-half years back. So that will be a great thing for us. If we get past the next couple of years, this next 18 to 24 months, we'll be okay. But we're not out of the woods just yet.
Lastly, transform. And the question for everybody ought to be "transform for what'" We have looked very hard at the future and at the way ahead for the country. I believe that we are at war with a global extremist terrorist network; that this is a long-term ideological struggle; and that we are going to be at this for a while. They attacked us on our soil. They are not going to give up. They're not going to quit. And they're not going to go away easily. But again, this is an ideological struggle that the military can only assist in winning.
As we look at that fact ... we've been at war here now for almost eight years ... we also look at the global trends. You see the trends pushing this in the wrong direction.
Globalization, up until a few months ago, was spreading prosperity across the globe. Now it's a little different story, but you still have "haves" and "have nots." And the "have nots" are susceptible to recruiting by these extremist groups.
Technology is the same ... a double-edged sword. The same technology that's bringing knowledge to anyone with a computer and a hookup is being used by terrorists to export terror around the globe.
Demographics. Going in the wrong direction. A lot of these developing countries are expected to double in size in the next decade. Can you imagine the population of Pakistan doubling in the next decade and the challenges that would present for any government'
In China and India, the middle class of both countries is larger than the population of the United States. That's a lot of two car families. I saw the picture in the paper today, the Nano, the Indian car. Even with that, there's a lot of competition for resources.
Things that worry me most ... weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists and safe havens - places where the local governments can't or won't protect their own territory.
So as we look to the future and we see all that, and we put it all together ... what that says to us is we're in an era of persistent conflict: protracted confrontation ... state actors, non-state actors, individual actors, terrorist actors, who are increasingly willing to use violence to accomplish their political and ideological objectives. What happened in Mumbai not long ago is a good example of what I'm talking about. You have a terrorist group from Pakistan that goes into the largest financial center in one of the world's largest economies and murders people. Now, everything's not going to involve us, as Mumbai didn't, but that's the type of thing that we're going to be confronted with. So we are trying to put our Army on a footing to be able to continuously respond to the events of the world and at the same time preserve this volunteer force. That's our big challenge.
One of the things that strikes us as we look at the future is that really, in these environments, it's all about leadership. So we designated this year as the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer. It's the first time in 20 years that the Army's done this. The last time we did it was 1989. The Army had come through two decades of rebuilding the Noncommissioned Officer Corps and the Noncommissioned Officer Education System.
We thought it appropriate at this time to do it again. We want to recognize the contribution that our noncommissioned officers make. We want to inform the American people about what a national asset they have.
Our Noncommissioned Officer Corps is the envy of every Army in the world. I visit my counterparts and I say to them, "Is there anything I can do to help'" "I want noncommissioned officers like yours," they say. "Sorry, General, I can't help you." [Laughter].
We're also going to do a series of things to enhance their skills over the coming years. We're very, very proud of our noncommissioned officers and the service they render. Again, they are a national asset. I'd remind you of two of them. Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester who in 2005 became the first woman since World War II to be awarded the Silver Star and the first one to receive the award for bravery in direct-fire combat. And Sergeant Monica Brown, another Silver Star recipient, an airborne combat medic who treated two wounded Soldiers under a hail of mortar and rifle fire in Afghanistan. So I think about those two great sergeants, and I believe that they personify the spirit of service that embodies all the men and women of our armed forces.
I'd like to read you something from President Obama's inaugural address. It was the part where he held up the men and women of the armed forces to the American people as an example. He said, "As we consider the role that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are the guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service - a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all."
That's the spirit that's embodied in Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester and Sergeant Monica Brown, and in all the men and women of our armed forces.
So thank you very much for all you do to remember the contributions of women to our Army. I wish you all good luck and Godspeed. Thank you very much.