Celebrating the Army birthday
Col. Deborah B. Grays U.S. Army Garrison Commander Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem

On Monday, we celebrate the Army's 235th birthday.

This celebration gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by members of the greatest land fighting force in history and the commitment to service demonstrated by those who wear the uniform.

It is also an opportunity to enjoy and appreciate historic Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem - as closure is just over a year away - and to reflect on the incredible transformation occurring in the Army today.

Many Soldiers joined the Army during the Cold War, when the enemy was recognizable and warfare was generally linear and traditional.

"AirLandBattle" was Army fighting doctrine and Soviet tactics drove our training plans. The Army Reserve was a strategic component, completely separate from the active force. Installations were numerous and well resourced.

Although operations in Grenada, Honduras and the Balkans marked departures from the Cold War battle focus, for many years, our lives as Soldiers were fairly predictable. Everything changed Sept. 11, 2001, when for the first time since the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States was attacked.

As with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, our shock and outrage led to war. Eight and a half years later, we are still a nation at war. Soldiers have deployed to theater two, three and four times, putting incredible stress on their Families and often coming home with injuries not visible to the eye.

The Reserve component has become completely integrated into the fight, both as combat deployers and as back-fills for deploying units in the United States and Europe.

Congress has ordered many installations to be realigned or closed in an effort to reduce the cost of maintaining the Army while supporting our presence overseas. Garrison commanders are working to maintain the home front with reduced funding, while the bulk of the Army's appropriated funds support the combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These changes make strong leadership and commitment to service more important than ever.

Counter-insurgency operations now characterize our fighting doctrine, and information technology has changed the way we and our enemy operate. Garrison operations have been removed from combat divisions and assembled into their own command - Installation Management Command.

The modular brigade combat team has replaced the division as the primary combat fighting unit. Non-linear, non-traditional, urban warfare characterizes our current engagements.

Our enemy is often invisible and may take the form of a child or a civilian. Our Soldiers are expected to engage the enemy and protect the innocent, but often the two cannot be readily distinguished.

As Gen. David H. Petraeus stated recently, war calls for constant learning and adaptation, especially in the counter-insurgency fight, and "the side that learns and adapts the fastest often prevails."

What has not changed about our Army, in the words of Gen. Charles C. Campbell as he relinquished command of U.S. Army Forces Command this past week, are our rich traditions and the resilient character of the American Soldier.

Despite a prolonged and dangerous fight across several operational theaters, we have remained an all-volunteer Army.

To remain effective, we rely more than ever on Civilian employees and Family members to support our troops in operations, training and on the home front. Only these critical assets can provide the support our transforming Army requires.

This 235th birthday of our Army is bittersweet for Families with members deployed and for Families with members who will never come home.

I encourage each of you to thank a Soldier, Civilian employee or Family member for serving in such a difficult chapter in our nation's history. Please also take this opportunity to enjoy our beautiful community, cherish your Families and reflect on the changing times in our operational forces and across our military communities. Together, we can forge a great future for our Army and our nation.

We are, and will remain, Army Strong!

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