May 17, 2012 -- CSA Remarks Senate Army Caucus Breakfast
June 5, 2012
As always it is great to be here today. It is such an honor to be in the Capitol. I do want to thank all the Senators and staffers who have taken time out of their incredibly busy schedules to be here. I know there is a lot going on up here, but I think this is an important forum to get together once in a while to have a chance to chat. I want to thank both our Assistant Secretaries and the Army Staff for being over here. We are one team, and it is that strong team that will help us to work through some of these difficult times that we all face. I am very confident that we have the abilities and capabilities to work through this. Our Army will come out stronger tomorrow than it is today, and we will do that by working together with Congress and within the Army and within the Joint Force. I am very, very confident of that.
I would like to say a couple of things. I would like to recognize Jack Stultz who is the current Commander U.S. Army Reserves. After almost six years, he is going to be retiring in June. I want to thank him for his incredible service to the Army. Jack and I first met early on in Kuwait when he was commanding a theatre support group down there. He did a tremendous job, and he has been a great asset for the Army. Jack, please stand up. Thank you for your great service.
I would also like to introduce Jeff Talley. He will be the incoming Commander U.S. Army Reserves, and he will take over in June. He had two tours in Iraq and has done incredible work. He has the right credentials. We are very happy about him coming onboard. He will continue to do a great job with our Army Reserve. Thank you so much Jeff for your service as well. (Applause)
As I stand up here I always want to remind everyone that we sometimes forget, but as we stand here today the Army has 92,000 Soldiers deployed; 68,000 in Afghanistan; 24,000 at other places mostly within the Central Command area of operations, whether it be in Kuwait, Qatar, and many other places. We are still fully engaged. I think sometimes we forget this, and we talk about coming out of Afghanistan. We are out of Iraq. Forces are coming down, but today we have 92,000 Soldiers who are overseas fighting for our country to continue to meet our national security objectives. We are very, very proud of that.
Yesterday I had the opportunity at the White House to be part of a Medal of Honor Ceremony for Specialist Sabo who served in the 101st Airborne Division during Vietnam, and was killed in San Se, Cambodia. They went through his heroic actions. We will meet with his family and have a ceremony at the Pentagon today. What struck me when I was at that ceremony yesterday was how many people from his Company were there. I think there were 18 who were there with him when he was killed while performing heroic actions to save many lives. For them, it was their award because one of their own was being recognized. It really made me think back. That is why I have served for 36 years, because of those relationships. You can't describe it. You can't describe the relationships that occur when you are forward and when you are under tough conditions. I got to see it in their eyes. I got to see how happy they were for the Sabo family, how happy they were and proud they were of their own Unit, and how proud they were of the 101st Airborne Division. That never goes away. In my mind that is what makes the Army special. This bond that we form, it is a people centric, Soldier centric Force. It is one that we ask a lot of our Soldiers. I am incredibly proud that I have the opportunity to serve with them.
It also reminds me of the incredible valor that we've seen over the last ten years. In the Army we've had six Medals of Honor, 25 Distinguished Service Crosses, 653 Silver Stars. In the last three months, I've had the opportunity to award a Distinguished Service Cross to a great young Sergeant out of the 101st. I had the opportunity to present a Silver Star to a great Sergeant out of the10th Mountain Division. I just see these young men and who they are and what they represent. It reminds me that we have the best young men and women that our Nation has to offer. I want to thank those of you here in the Senate that supports us to make sure we have what we need in order to make sure these young men and women can do the job we ask them to do. You've done such a good job of standing up for us making sure of what we have, and I think it is that strong relationship that we have to continue to have as we go through these difficult fiscal times. We have to work together to make sure we don't ever let down those young Soldiers that are out there every day.
As Senator Inhofe in the Senate Caucus has said, "We never know what we might ask them to do." Frankly we have been terrible at trying to predict the future. I remember that I ended up one day in Albania, I ended up one day in Desert Storm, I ended up one day on the ramp getting to go to Granada (I didn't go because the Island was full by that time). The attacks of 9/11, the end of the Cold War - we just don't know what is going to happen. So what we owe you is an Army that is prepared. That becomes part of a balanced portfolio of a Joint Force that allows us to respond across a spectrum of capabilities and threats that we have to our Nation. We owe you that. We are ready to give that to you. In working with our Air Force colleagues, our Navy colleagues, and Marine colleagues, we will work together to make sure you have the right Force that is ready to do this. I want to thank you so much for your great, great support.
I want to touch on two other issues. Then I will open it up for questions. I do want you to realize that we are moving forward. We are in a dynamic time. Not only is it a dynamic time because of the fiscal challenges that we have, but we are operating in a dynamic environment today, one of great uncertainty around the world. I don't need to take everyone in this room around the world, but I can take you to 10 or 12 different places where we just don't know what could happen in those areas. It is also important for us as an Army to look forward. How do we adjust? How do we learn from the last ten years and apply it to what we believe we need to be able to do in the future? That is what we are focused on. What is the right mix of forces that we need? We are going to reorganize our Brigade Combat Teams to make them more capable and more adaptive and more flexible and agile in order to respond to a variety of threats. We are going to continue to take advantage of the expertise that is born of our National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve over the last ten years as we move forward. We are working through all of those kinds of programs.
But the Army of today is different than the Army of 2001 even as we come down to about the same size. It is a very different looking Army. It is one that has incredible combat experience. We've increased our Special Operations Forces capabilities significantly. We've increased our ability to do intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance significantly. We've increased the size of our aviation force, our rotary wing aviation force significantly. We've increased, we've changed and reviewed and continued to rewrite our doctrine in order to look forward at the potential threats that we might face. We've done such a better job of integrating Conventional and Special Operations Forces on a routine basis. We will continue to push that forward. We continue to look at how we will come together as a Joint Force. What have we learned? The Civil Military Whole of Government approach -- we can't ever walk away from that. The environments that we are going to have to operate in will not just require military capabilities, but capabilities across our entire government. We don't want to lose that. We have to put programs in place that continues to allow us, once we come out of Afghanistan, to continue to work with the State Department, with the Justice Department, with the FBI, with the CIA, with all of these other organizations. This is critical as we move forward. I believe there will be no type of warfare that does not require a Whole of Government approach in the future. So we will continue to focus on that.
I also want you to understand how important it is and how focused we are on sustaining the moral, ethical, and professional values of the U.S. Army. Over the last several months, there have been a few incidents. I think they have put questions in some people's minds. Are we war weary? Has it gone after the discipline of our Force? I will tell you it has not. Do we have issues we have to deal with? Absolutely. Are we going to go after those issues? Absolutely. But I never had more confidence in a Force. When I go to Afghanistan, I am struck by the high morale of our young men and women over there. When I go around here in the United States, whether it be to Fort Lewis, Fort Campbell, Fort Drum, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood, and any other installation, I am struck by the training and expertise that we are seeing. I went down to Fort Benning a month ago to see new recruits. I have never seen recruits so motivated before in my life.
We are getting the best quality people in the Army today, the highest quality we've had in sometime. Our retention is good. We are actually metering our retention. We've decentralized how we do retention, giving Commanders more responsibility so they get to make sure we are keeping the very best of the best. We will continue to do that. The applications at West Point are the highest they've ever been. This year we have 16,000 applications for 1,250 positions. It is the highest quality applications they've ever had. Those young men and women want to serve. So it is up to us to make sure we take these young men and women who want to serve and we provide them the opportunity and provide them the resources in order to do the missions that we are going to ask them to do. That is our responsibility in this room.
There are a few other things that are on my mind: sexual harassment and suicide prevention. We are all in on eliminating sexual harassment and sexual assault. We have a lot of work to do. It is a culture. We have to change the culture in our Army. We have to make sure we get people from all over our country. We are going to bring them into our Army, and we are going to talk to them about the Army culture, the Army culture of value and ethics, the Army culture of Soldiers taking care of Soldiers. We will not allow this type of behavior to permeate our profession. We are putting several different things in place that will allow us to do that. We will continue to work with the Senate on that to make sure that we have all the capabilities we need in order to go after this.
Suicides are vexing. We thought we leveled out on suicides, but right now we are having a very bad year in suicides. Right now we are at a rate that is probably going to be the highest year ever, potentially. I can't tell you why that is happening. That is what is vexing to me. There are no trends. I can't even tell you that the reason it is happening is because is happening to deployed Soldiers, and because many of the Soldiers that are committing suicide have not even been deployed. So I don't know what it is. What I do know is it is about intervention; it is about Soldiers knowing Soldiers; it is about leaders understanding Soldiers' issues. We are going to continue to work this problem as hard as we can, and we are going to overcome it. So let me end there, and I will be happy to take your questions.
As I do when I end any talk, I want to make sure that you know that the strength of our Nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our Soldiers. The strength of our Soldiers is our Families. That is what makes us Army Strong. I will be happy to take your questions at this time. Thank you very much. I don't expect the Army Staff to be asking me any questions by the way.