The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Fort Campbell's Wilson Theater Monday to talk to Soldiers about the military's future in Afghanistan.

Adm. Mike Mull en said Fort Campbell will be on the leading edge of President Obama's decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. "I try to focus my travels on bases and posts where people have deployed the most," he said. "Certainly that's the way I see it here at Campbell."

He told the approximately 700 Screaming Eagles he appreciates what they do, that they serve, when they serve, and the difference they make at this significant time in history. "That history is "really being written by the best military we've ever had as far as I'm concerned, and I've been doing this for a long time."

Mullen said they should be proud to be part of the incredible organization that is the U.S. military. The chairman added that in this ninth year of war, the military is working hard to succeed in the mission while sustaining the force over the long term.

He said the U.S. is "clearly in a position ... to draw down in Iraq," but there is now a strategic shift to Afghanistan. The admiral said he never forgets the ultimate sacrifices of those who are no longer here because of those sacrifices.

"You are a group that, by and large, is headed to Afghanistan," he said. "We know what the mission is; we've spent an extensive amount of time with the president and his senior administration officials, as well as the military, focusing on what we need to do and focusing on the totality of it.

"I need not remind you that there's a big military piece of that," Mullen continued. "But, just like Iraq, it's not all about the military. There's got to be a civilian component piece of that... a government component piece of this with respect to the Afghan government. It takes all of us to work together."

Mullen said, while he is extremely confident the U.S. can succeed in this mission, he does not underestimate the challenge. The focus will still be on counterinsurgency, but the culture is not the same. The focus will be on the security of the population.

The number one challenge is the safety of the people of Afghanistan, Mullen said. "They're tired, they've been fighting for 30 years... they certainly don't want to see the Taliban take over their country, but they know that it's a possibility."

The chairmen urged the Soldiers not to assume the next tour will be the same as before. "There's an awful lot of change that is going on right now - not just the strategic shift from Iraq to Afghanistan - but change inside Afghanistan and how we're doing."

The goal is to take advantage of the experience base that lies within those Soldiers who've been to Afghanistan before, to lessen the learning curve and get the units up to speed very quickly.
"Given the additional troops... I am sure that we will sustain an increased number of casualties," Mullen said. "I don't want to be in any way unclear about that. This is what happened in Iraq during the surge and it - as tragic as it will be to turn this thing around - will be a part of this surge as well." He said every measure will be taken to minimize those numbers.

"I expect a tough fight in 2010," said Mullen. "We've got to figure out how to, one, succeed in the mission; two, balance the help of the force."

A message sent out by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. and Secretary of the Army John McHugh, said the growth of the Army over the past five years - 70,000 troops since 2004 with 40,000 of them in the last two years and in the drawdown in Iraq -- will allow the Army to execute the troop increase without going to 15-month deployments, going to less than 12 months of dwell time between deployments or halting the plan to come off stop-loss.

Mullen said dwell time between deployments, in the Army in particular, will slightly increase over the next couple of years. He said the Army will not get out to twice as long at home when compared to the amount of time deployed until probably 2011-2012.

The admiral opened up the floor to questions and answered, in depth, anything he had not previously addressed.

Sgt. 1st Class Ron S. Washington Sr., 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, S-4 noncommissioned officer in charge, said Mullen gave a lot of information regarding the upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. He added that Mullen also answered a lot of questions that leaders and junior Soldiers had been curious about.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16