AUSA Opens With Pledge to Army Families
October 8, 2007
By Beth Reece
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 8, 2007) - The annual convention of the Association of the United States Army kicked off here today with emphasis on America's Army as "The Strength of the Nation" and promises by leadership to do Army Families right.
Secretary of the Army Pete M. Geren said the 150 thousand Soldiers serving on the frontlines in Iraq and Afghanistan have urgent needs and expect urgent responses by Army leadership to get them what they need, when they need it.
"If we are complacent, if we ignore the lessons learned and warning signs of six years of war, the seams that are exposed in the crucible of combat, in the field or on the homefront, our Army Soldiers and Families will wear down. We will not let that happen."
The Soldier of 2007 does not look like the Soldier of 2000. He or she is trained different, equipped different and led different, the secretary said, stressing that Families have also changed.
"Family support in 2007 cannot look like it did in the year 2000. Not if our Army is going to remain ready, not if our Army is to remain healthy, not if we're going to fulfill our obligations to Soldiers and Families."
In recognition of the commitment and increasing sacrifices made by Army Families, Sec. Geren pledged to give the Army's 500 thousand spouses and 700 thousand children a quality of life that matches their quality of service.
Along with Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, Sec. Geren said Army leadership is committed to improving Family readiness by standardizing and funding existing Family programs and services, increasing accessibility and quality of health care, expanding education and employment opportunities, and improving housing.
More than 20 thousand homes have been newly built or renovated through the Army's Residential Communities Initiative since 2001. "By 2010, 90 percent of all on-post homes will have been transferred to a private partner for new construction and renovation. That partnership will change Army housing into Army homes," Sec. Geren said. "We project that by 2013, our Soldiers and Families living on post will be out of housing and living in high-quality homes in vibrant, private communities."
The Army committed $100 million to Army family programs last summer, and plans to add another $1.4 billion from supplemental funding for the war on terror over the next year.
"For six years we've asked much of Army Families. In this era of persistent conflict we will ask more, and we must do more," he said.
Expecting participants to spend the next three days hearing about training, transformation and modernization, Sec. Geren took the chance to boast about the heroism of Soldiers and Families - something the secretary said often goes unlooked by national media. Two months after Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in the spring of 2005 for his actions in Iraq, media had mentioned the Soldier just 90 times, Sec. Geren said.
"The alleged prisoner abuse at Guantamino Bay had drawn 4,000 mentions, and the court martial of Abu Ghraib guard Lynndie England had drawn over five thousand mentions," Sec. Geren said. "Lynndie England is a household name in America, but Paul R. Smith is known to too few."
Sec. Geren also cited Pvt. Stephen C. Sanford of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, who braved intense enemy fire while helping evacuate casualties from a home in Mosul Nov. 19, 2005. When the last evacuee was shot in the neck while leaving the house, Pvt. Sanford rushed to the Soldier's side to perform CPR. Pvt. Sanford was shot in the back twice while aiding the Soldier, but continued to return fire until incapacitated by his own loss of blood.
"Pvt. Sanford put the mission first. Pvt. Sanford never accepted defeat. Pvt. Sanford never quit. Pvt. Sanford never left a fallen comrade," Sec. Geren said. "The service of our Soldiers tells the story of our Army, and their service tells what kind of Army we are."
AUSA brings Soldiers together at a crucial time in the nation's history and Army's life, Sec. Geren said.
"Yesterday, Oct. 7, we began the seventh year of combat operations in Iraq. This is the third largest war in the history of our nation behind the Revolutionary War and Vietnam. It is the only conflict we've fought since the Revolutionary War with an all-volunteer force," he said.
Before Sec. Geren's keynote address, Soldiers of the the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Army Band performed skits that brought to life 232 years of Army history.
This year's convention includes more than 500 industry and military exhibits, in addition to professional development forums covering such topics as the NCO education system, modernization, business transformation, support to wounded Soldiers and helping children cope with deployment.