Secretary of the Army Arrival Ceremony Remarks
August 30, 2007
<i>Remarks (as prepared) by the Honorable Pete Geren, Secretary of the Army, for his Arrival Ceremony at Fort Meyer, Virginia. 30 Aug. 2007</i>
General Casey, thank you for your kind words and for hosting this ceremony. George Casey - a Soldier for 37 years. The son of a Soldier, the father of a Soldier. George and Sheila Casey have devoted their adult lives to our Army and our nation. George and Sheila, thank you so much for your service.
Secretary Wynne, Secretary Winter, General Cartwright, Sergeant Major Preston, former Secretaries Calloway, Marsh, and Brownlee, distinguished civilian and military guests from the Department of Defense, both past and present, thank you for your service to the Nation.
Ambassador Schieffer and Congressman Hall - thank you for joining us here today.
Dad, Family and friends - thank all of you for being here. Beckie, Tracy, Annie, Mary, and I appreciate so much that you have come to share this occasion with us. It means more to us than I can say.
Tracy, Annie, and Mary are great girls - young ladies.....Texans through and through. And so is their mother. And we miss home - thank all of you for bringing home, and the most important part of Texas, to us.
It is wonderful to be with you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Among our guests today, are military leaders, military attaches, from 26 countries - allies and coalition partners. Our Army values your friendship and partnership in the hard work of our collective security. I salute you for your service.
I would like to take a moment to recognize the outstanding Soldiers on the field today: the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard," and the United States Army Band, "Pershing's Own."
With the ratification of our Constitution in 1789, the Old Guard, the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, became the first standing unit in the Army. It is the oldest regiment in our Army and has served our nation continuously for the last 218 years, earning 54 campaign streamers.
The United States Army Band, founded in 1922 by Army Chief of Staff General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing, and has proudly provided musical support throughout the world during its history.
Colonel Buche and Colonel Rotondi - I thank you and your Soldiers....great job - as always. Together your Soldiers represent the millions of soldiers who have served over our Army's 232 year history and the million Soldiers who serve today.
And to the Soldiers, Families, and Army Civilians who are with us today - thank you for being here - and thank you for volunteering for duty during these perilous times. It is truly a privilege to stand before you today as your Secretary of the Army.
I want to thank President Bush and Dr. Gates for providing me this opportunity to serve our Soldiers and their Families -- and for their tireless dedication and service to our men and women in uniform during these perilous times for our nation; And thank the Congress for their support and for their partnership in service to our Army.
My family and I came to Washington planning a three-year hitch - and six years later we are still here.
I joined the Department in August 2001, expecting a peace-time assignment in defense transformation working with Secretary Rumsfeld. Then came September 11th and the war.
There is a sense of mission working among our Military men and women in time of war that is hard to walk away from.
I have held staff and leadership jobs in the Pentagon over these 6 years - and consider it the privilege of a lifetime to have the opportunity to work on behalf of our nation's military men and women, and their Families, in time of war. Our grateful nation cannot do enough for them - and I am honored to play a part - a supporting role in service to them.
For the past 6 years, I have watched Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines go off to war.
And I have watched their Families stand steadfast and unwavering in their support of their departed loved ones, and live with the uncertainty of whether he or she would return home.
And live with the certainty that there would be birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, graduations, and the ups and downs of every day life that their loved one would miss - for 12 months, and now 15 months.
And too often watch those Families bear the loss when he or she did not return home.
I have been inspired by the selfless service of our Soldiers...and humbled by the sacrifice of their Families.
We have 150,000 Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can never take our eye off that ball. That is why we have an Army - the pre-eminent land force on the face of the earth. They are the best trained, best led, and best equipped force we have ever put in the field. And, they are counting on their Army, Big Army, to continue to provide them the training, equipment, and leadership to take the fight to the enemy. They deliver for us against this ruthless, smart, and adaptive enemy. And they count on their Army leadership back home to deliver for them - to move the bureaucracy on the home front. I am proud to partner with General Casey in working for them.
General Casey talked about the challenges we face as an Army - and we are working together with a great team of Soldiers and civilians to continue the progress our Army has made in responding to the demands of war and the demands of modernization and transformation.
General Casey and I share a vision for moving our Army forward. And I would like to talk more about a heartfelt commitment he and I share - the commitment to Army Families....to move our Army forward in meeting the needs of Army Families....providing them the support they earn and deserve....in time of war, in a long war, in an era of persistent conflict.
Today over one million men and women wear the uniform of the United States Army - Active, Guard, and Reserve. One Army, they train as one, they fight as one.
Standing with them are Army Families, full partners in the selfless service to our nation, of their Soldier loved ones.
The American Soldier and the Army Family, together they are our All Volunteer Force. They are a national treasure answering the call to duty of a grateful nation in this time of war. The All Volunteer Force is a national treasure we are taxing at unprecedented levels.
We ended the draft in 1973 - replacing a system that had counted on conscription since the middle of the Civil War, replacing it with one that depends entirely on volunteers.
And, as we move past October 7th , the date operations began in Afghanistan in 2001, we move into the seventh year of major combat in the Global War on Terror.
This war is the third longest war in American history, after the Revolutionary War and Vietnam. This is the first extended conflict we have fought with an All Volunteer Force since the Revolutionary War.
Our Army, Soldiers and Families, are stretching to meet the demands of the current conflict. Currently, we have over 260,000 Soldiers deployed to 80 countries, including the 150,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since the beginning of combat operations in 2001, over 550,000 Soldiers have served in combat zones, with over 220,000 deployed multiple times, many three and four times. A Soldier who joined the Army on September 12, 2001, has deployed at least two times, likely three, and he or she is getting ready for a fourth one.
Yet, our resilient Soldiers and their Families, our volunteers, continue to answer the call of duty and serve with courage, professionalism, and distinction. Our Soldiers continue to re-enlist and go back to the fight again and again.
And, their Families continue to stand with them.
Their actions demonstrate that our Army embodies the strength of our nation.
And even without the war, we would be a busy Army - Soldiers and dedicated Army Civilians - working to transform and modernize the force and, among other things, implement the largest Base Realignment and Closure in history.
We are growing the total Army by 74,000 and completing the transformation of the Reserve Component, the Army Guard and Reserves, from a strategic to an operational force. A reserve component that has been called on repeatedly over the past six years -- and has served with distinction on the home front and in combat -- from Katrina to Baghdad to Kandahar. Citizen Soldiers - Selfless Service.
We are half-way through the largest organizational change since World War II, converting our combat and enabling formations to modular formations.
Our depots are operating at historical levels to reset and recapitalize our battle damaged vehicles and equipment.
We are asking much of our Soldiers - those in combat and those Soldiers and Civilians that are carrying the burden of Army transformation - and their Army Families - and we cannot expect the demands will diminish in the foreseeable future. Organizational and institutional changes will continue for years and we must expect, and plan, for a future of continued deployments in an era of persistent conflict.
Our Army is changing rapidly, and profoundly, to become the agile and expeditionary force our nation requires. Even with all the great work we have done in transforming our Army, today's Army is challenged to provide a sustainable tempo of deployments and properly support our Army Families.
In order to sustain our All Volunteer Force, we will do more to support our Army Families during these challenging times. Family support systems - health care, housing, childcare and education - designed for the pre-9/11 peacetime Army must be adapted to sustain an Army at war.
Over 150 years ago, President Lincoln pledged our nation, pledged a commitment to our Soldiers and their Families - Soldiers who have borne the battle, their widows, and now widowers, and orphans. It is a pledge, a commitment, that every generation must renew not with words, but with deeds.
And this is not your grandfather's Army. The demographics of today's Army are markedly different from any Army that has fought an extended conflict in our Nation's history and pose challenges unaddressed in the past. Over half of our 1 million Soldiers are married and a majority of our Army spouses are employed outside the home. Their families include over 700,000 children.
And when a married mother or father deploys, he or she leaves behind a single parent household and all the challenges associated with that family dynamic. The single parent who deploys leaves children behind in the care of others. With multiple deployments and dwell time filled with training for the next deployment, the stress on the Family compounds. We are committed to address these challenges.
The demanding present, and the prospects of an unrelenting future, require an overhaul of our Family support systems. Our Army Families deserve a quality of life commensurate with the quality of their extraordinary service. And we have much to do to accomplish that goal.
We have been working for months and this Fall the Army will launch the Army Soldier-Family Action Plan to bolster Family support. We are building the plan based on the input of Families across our Army deployed around the globe.
The Army Soldier-Family Action Plan will be an important step forward, but it is not the final answer to the dynamic needs of Army Families. Improving Family support is a journey and will never be a destination.
Our Army must continue to examine the ever-changing needs of our Families and never cease in our effort to provide our Families a quality of life commensurate with the quality of their selfless service.
In 1973 our nation launched the experiment of the All Volunteer Force. In our seventh year of major combat operations, we are in uncharted territory for our modern volunteer force, for Soldiers and Families.
The demands and strains of this long war have brought about many changes in how we organize, train, and equip our Army. The required changes in Family support must follow.
The old saw, "If the Army wanted you to have a Family, it would have issued you one" is as out-dated as the smoothbore musket.
The All Volunteer Force is the Soldier and the Army Family. The health of the All Volunteer Force depends on the health of the Family.
The health of the Army Family is and must remain a priority for the Army leadership as long as we choose to depend on volunteers to protect and defend our nation....as long as we depend on that national treasure...our All Volunteer Force.
Today, you recruit the Soldier, you retain the Family. We will do both and we will do both well. We will remain the pre-eminent land power and we will remain Army Strong! God bless our Soldiers and their Army Families.