Bragg Birthday Celebration
Lt. Gen, Lloyd J. Austin III, commander, XVIII Airborne Corps cuts Fort Bragg's Army birthday cake with U.S. Military Academy at West Point cadet Alexis Santiago (right) and Nicole Smith of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment. Santiago and Smith had the fastest times in Fort Bragg's 13th annual Army Ten-Miler.

Sunday will mark the 234th birthday of the world's finest fighting force. I feel that it is important to remember and celebrate the significance of the America's largest and oldest military service. As you kick back and enjoy the weekend with whatever source of entertainment you choose, I ask that you take a moment to remember our brothers and sisters who are serving abroad so that we're still able to enjoy our freedom at home. Believe me, I am fully aware that Memorial Day was celebrated several weeks ago, but paying respect to our past and present heroes is of the utmost importance. Ever since June 14, 1775, when our nation's forefathers formed the Continental Army to ensure that its colonies remained free from British rule, the Army has been instrumental in shaping the world. It has participated in 23 wars or conflicts, including World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War and most recently, Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, which compose the Global War on Terror. There have been 36 Army chiefs of staff. Some include names that are readily recognizable by today's Soldiers, such as Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, general of the Armies, Gen. John J. Pershing, Maj. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Generals of the Army George Marshall and Dwight D. Eisenhower, former 82nd Airborne Division Commander Gen. Matthew B. Ridgeway, Gen. Creighton W. Abrams and Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, to name a few. As current Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. leads the Army through its new era, we must give thanks to past and present Soldiers for laying the groundwork to make the Army what it is today. Today's Army was molded from a force, which featured revolutionary patriots, World War I doughboys, airborne paratroopers and Army Rangers. The fusion of that lineage is what created the highly intelligent, new generation of Soldiers who now fill the ranks. Oh yes, the Army has changed drastically over the past 30 years. I recall back in 1985, when I, as a young private in the now-deactivated 8th Infantry Division, watched the senior members of my platoon dawn their old olive drab green field jackets for formations. This was during the time when the Army was phasing those out for the then-new battle dress uniform. Then, several years ago as a senior noncommissioned officer, I watched another transformation, as the BDUs were phased out for the current Army combat uniforms. Like the finest of wines, the Army is getting better with age. Never before has there been an Army that requires its troops to be as educated and tech-savvy as today's force. Many of the Army's current weapon systems feature more computers than some small factories and, of course, it takes a smart Soldier to operate them properly. Within those 234 years, the quality of Army recruits has changed as well. In the past, it was common for petty criminals to have a choice after breaking the law, as many judges handed down the familiar sentence, "go to the Army of go to jail." That's not the case now. As a former Army recruiter, I know this for a fact. It's hard enough finding qualified applicants and catering to common criminals is not an option. Today's Army prefers Soldiers who have at least some college courses under his or her belt, preferably a bachelor's degree and outstanding criminal charges do not fit the bill. As I said earlier, it takes a certain amount of intelligence to function in the newly transformed "Army of the future" and these Soldiers have it. My hat goes off to the Soldiers of today, who juggle military operations, educational goals and Family life while trying to maintain normalcy in a turbulent world. Since coming to Fort Bragg, I have noticed, first hand, the amount of courage that our young Soldiers exhibit on a daily basis. It is my opinion that the XVIII Airborne Corps features the best of the best. Fort Bragg is home to some of the greatest and brightest Soldiers the world has ever seen. To the Soldiers, you guys prove that I'm right every day I show up to work. As a retired Soldier, I enjoy seeing NCOs make on-the-spot corrections, or watching and listening to Soldiers sing cadence while they do morning PT. These are just some of the things that make the Army a special lifestyle. No one ever told us that it would be an easy transition from civilians to Soldiers and we understood the sacrifices when we raised our hands at took the oath of enlistment or became newly-commissioned officers. Despite the challenges, we forged on as Soldiers here continue to do each day. Younger Soldiers may not realize their importance, but rest assured every decision you make today and every action that you take will affect someone else in the future. You as Soldiers, shoulder the responsibility of shaping America and on a larger scale, the world. For your actions and those of every other Soldier who gets up early so that my children can rest well at night, I say thank you. To the organization to which we serve, here's wishing you a very happy birthday.

Page last updated Thu June 11th, 2009 at 13:53