WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 20, 2008) - The acting under secretary of the Army and the assistant surgeon general for warrior care and transition talked about some of the Army's most important missions and challenges with business executives from the Chicago area at the Pentagon Wednesday.

Under Secretary Nelson Ford and Brig. Gen. Mike Tucker discussed the Army's top goals -- especially caring for Soldiers and their Families to repay them for their sacrifices. Soldiers recently back from operations in Afghanistan and Iraq described the successes and challenges of the war on terror during a "Boots on the Ground" panel with the business executives who were members of the "Young Presidents' Organization."

"One of the things that you realize when you work in the Army is how committed Soldiers are," said Mr. Ford. "Soldiers are all volunteers...they've made an assessment of the risks and awards...and they like the work that they do...Soldiers love to be in the field, so the commitment of Soldiers is in their positive behavior in almost every situation. You can see a Soldier in the field. They're covered with mud, they haven't had enough sleep. They're eating (Meals Ready to Eat) and you ask them how it's going and the response is invariably positive. It's a stunning experience as a Civilian.

"Soldiers make sacrifices, but (their) Families make bigger sacrifices, because they're not having the same kind of experience that the rest of us expect to have with our Families. They're not there for birthdays. They're not there for Christmas. They're not there for Thanksgiving. They're gone a lot. So Families are making sacrifices. Soldiers are committed. Caring for Soldiers and Families is our highest priority."

That is doubly true for wounded Soldiers, said Brig. Gen. Tucker. He told the businessmen about the dozens of ways the Army has improved healthcare in the past year and described the Warrior Transition Units. To ensure no wounded warrior slips through the cracks, squad leaders are assigned to Soldiers at the rate of one to 12, nurse-case managers at the 1 to 18 ration, and primary-care managers at the one to 200 ratio, which is considerably better than the private sector's one to 1,500 ratio.

The businessmen were visibly impressed and congratulated Tucker on the many improvements. One even asked if Tucker could fix his companies. They were in town for a "Fly-In," which the Army has been conducting to educate community and business leaders for several years, according to representatives from the Army Executive Partnerships Office.

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

"We're always looking for opportunities to see different walks of life and different opportunities to compare the worlds that we exist in from a corporate structure and look at the structure of the military, understand the world around us, how it impacts us personally, our families, how it may affect our businesses," said Rob Mann, who organized the event for the Young Presidents' Organization. "We had breakfast this morning at Fort Myer with some enlisted men and it reinforces the confidence that we have, not only in the military itself, but the overall government and the strategies that we're pursuing. In terms of intelligence, commitment and personality, I think the people that we interacted with, at all levels, are very impressive. The speakers who we heard today, it's wonderful that they took their time to meet with us, and to explain things that we just wouldn't have access to otherwise. We see it in the media, but when you hear it directly from a colonel or from a brigadier general, it's got a very different sense to it, so there have been wonderful insights."

According to Stephenson and Langston W. Willis of Executive Partnerships, this is the second of six Fly-Ins, which will occur through May. Willis said the "Boots on the Ground" panel is standard, the Army usually provides briefings on the war on terrorism and a senior leader hosts lunch. He added that if the group is interested in a specific issue, they try to provide a speaker who is knowledgeable in that area.

"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," he said.

(A report from Carrie McLeroy contributed to this article.)

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