WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 13, 2008) -- More than a dozen leaders from two northern Iowa communities met with senior Army leadership Wednesday at the Pentagon to learn more about the Army's mission and the challenges it faces.

The guests, who represented local governments and businesses from Clear Lake and Mason City, were briefed by various levels of Army leadership on the current state of the Army, its role in the war on terrorism and how American communities can support servicemen and women. They were also afforded the opportunity to meet with and ask questions of several officers recently home from Iraq and Afghanistan, who gave an overview of their experiences in theater.

The Army has been conducting what are referred to as, "Fly-Ins," for several years, according to representatives from Army Executive Partnerships office at Headquarters, Department of the Army.

"These events are outreach opportunities for the Army to build partnerships with local leaders throughout the country," said K. Stephenson, director of Executive Partnerships, who explained that most of the communities that participate find out about the program from the National Chamber of Commerce.

Brig. Gen. David Halverson, director of Operations, Readiness and Mobilization, gave the leaders and business people an overview of what the Army does, its uniqueness and its senior leaders' goals for the future.

"As an Army, we face the same issues as small-town America, but on a magnified scale," he said. "We have to take care of our Soldiers and their families, educate our men and women and equip them for the future."

He added that the Army is faced with additional challenges such as creating a good reset model for Soldiers and the equipment they need to, "fight the fight," as well as transforming the way the Army operates while maintaining its current effectiveness.

Halverson's message to the guests was to continue to be advocates for Soldiers at home and abroad. "Our Soldiers need your support. They're doing this so you don't have to, and it's important for them to know they have the support of the people here," he said. "And let me just say we feel that support, and we appreciate it."

Col. Mike Beech, chief of the Strategic Planning Division, Directorate for the War on Terrorism, J5, The Joint Staff, gave the group a comprehensive presentation about the war on terrorism. He spoke of the changing nature of various terrorist organizations and how the Army is meeting the challenges, adapting its approach and having success. He also localized the issue for the guests.

"As we become more successful militarily, it becomes more and more important to involve global and U.S. local law enforcement," he said.

The, "Boots on the Ground," panel, consisting of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans, described their experiences and openly fielded questions from the group. Lt. Col. Ken Spiel Vogel, who served as a minister engagement officer in Afghanistan, described the successes and difficulties of building up the current infrastructure in Afghanistan, and how local communities and businesses can contribute to that work.

Lt. Col. Ross Brown was a squadron commander with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq. He related the challenges he and his Soldiers faced while serving in the Sunni Triangle to an audience unfamiliar with the military. He spoke of the cultural issues they are faced with, and the importance of feeling bonded not only to their brothers and sisters in arms, but also to the people back home.

"We never doubt that we have the support of the majority of Americans. We appreciate the care packages we receive, the letters from your children, and the sponsorship from your communities," he said. "All those things help to make us feel connected to you."

The final panelist, Capt. Kelly Modlin, served as the operations officer for the Multi-National Force Iraq commanding general. She conveyed her experiences in theater as a woman, and briefly spoke about her work to archive historical documents related to the war in Iraq.

Following the panel discussion, the guests attended an informal working lunch with Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., director of the Army Staff, to discuss current issues and how they link the Army to their communities.

"This type of outreach is very important, because we need you and your communities," Huntoon said. "We need you all the time, but especially now, during a time of war, when stressors on our Soldiers and their families are so great. We need you to help us get the word out about what we are doing."

Huntoon answered questions from the group regarding recruiting, retention, Soldier and family care, gains in Iraq and Afghanistan and educating the Army and America as a whole.

"It is important for us to be transparent with you, the local leaders, so you can take these messages back to the American public," he said. "We make plenty of mistakes, and we deserve the attention when we err, but lots of great things are happening as well."

When Huntoon mentioned opportunities for cities like Clear Lake and Mason City to host senior Army leaders as speakers, Robin Edgar, board president of the Mason City Area Chamber of Commerce voiced the group's thoughts. "I think everyone here agrees that we would love to have the opportunity to have not just one, but several people come to Northern Iowa to speak in our communities," she said.

Langston W. Willis of Army Executive Partnerships said four more "Fly-Ins," are scheduled through May. He said the, "Boots on the Ground," panel is a standard for the visits, and they generally provide briefings on the war on terrorism as well as lunch hosted by a senior Army leader. If the visiting group is interested in a specific issue, Willis said they try to provide a speaker who can speak to that issue. "The objective is to have these community leaders walk away with a better understanding of the Army, in turn garnering support for Army resourcing, recruiting, Guard and Reserve and overall public support."

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