Secretary Geren speaks at U.S. Army Reserve 100th Anniversary
May 30, 2008
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren Remarks
100th Anniversary of the U.S. Army Reserve
April 23, 2008
Thank you, Lt. Gen. Stultz, for your kind introduction.
For nearly 35 years -- ever since you received a commission from the ROTC unit at Davidson College - Elite 8 Davidson College, basketball powerhouse D.C. - you have served our Nation with distinction. And since leaving active duty in 1979 to join the Reserves and pursue a private career, you've embodied America's citizen soldier ethic.
You deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, to the Balkans in support of Operations Joint Endeavor and Joint Guard, -and to Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom - all while keeping your day job at Procter and Gamble, where you worked for 28 years.
LTG Stultz: thank you for your distinguished and selfless service.
And to the Soldiers of our Army Reserve - nearly 900 of you here tonight - and your families - thank you for your service. You've come from every state in our Nation to be here tonight. It is an honor to be with you.
I want to recognize the father of Army Reserve SGT Ryan Casey, known to some as George Casey, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.
I would especially like to thank - and recognize - the wounded warriors who are with us. It is humbling to be in your presence, and we all thank you for your service - and your sacrifices. God bless you and your families.
And I'd like to extend my congratulations to the 100 Soldiers who re-enlisted this morning on the Capitol's West Lawn. Thank you for your continued service. Again, you have answered our Nation's call - in this time of war. Thank you.
I also would like to recognize the Army Reserve Ambassadors for their work. You are the vital link between our Army and local communities, telling the Army story and our Soldiers' story. Thank you for all you do.
The employers who are here tonight are full partners in the service of the Army Reserve. Thank you for your support of our Reserve Soldiers and their families. We could not do it without you. You are full partners in the service of your Soldier employees.
It is a privilege to speak here tonight, at the final event of a day of celebration, remembrance, and commitment. To join you in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the United States Army Reserve - it is a great honor.
The Reserve Soldiers in this room embody the selfless service and personal courage of the citizen soldiers who have distinguished themselves throughout the history of the Army Reserve.
Since September 11, 2001, over 182,000 Army Reserve Soldiers have been called into action in Afghanistan, Iraq, and over a dozen other countries in support of the war on terror.
As we sit here, at this moment, more than 25,000 Reserve Soldiers are deployed -- 15,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan and another 6,000 currently manning vital homeland security posts.
In all, the Reserves now number near 200,000 highly-trained Soldiers who stand ready at a moment's notice to defend our nation - with their Families supporting them in their service.
It wasn't that long ago that the Army Reserve was exactly that -- a strategic Reserve designed to complement a standing Army - not long ago, but ancient history.
Today's Reserve is an operational, expeditionary, and domestic force that is a nearly seamless component of the best-led, best-trained and best equipped Army the world has ever seen.
I'm certain that those involved in the creation of the Army Reserve would marvel at what it has become. But I don't think they would be surprised. The Reserve is the fulfillment of America's citizen-soldier ethic - an ethic dating back to 1632.
With our independence from the British Crown, our republican government placed responsibility for its sovereignty squarely in the hands of the people. Fearful of the threat of a large standing Army, regular citizens were given the responsibility of defending the republic and preserving fundamental rights.
From the beginning, our nation chose to mobilize citizen militias for the national defense, a history reflected in the seal of the Army Reserve, which features a portrait of one of the original Minutemen.
In fact, it was just three weeks after the Revolutionary War's official end that the Continental Army's Commander-in-Chief -- George Washington -- laid out his out his recommendations for defending the nation.
In May of 1783, Washington sent his "Sentiments on a Peace Establishment" to Alexander Hamilton, then a member of the Continental Congress. Washington's "Sentiments" called for the establishment of a small standing Army, and lay out the blueprint for a reserve force of citizen soldiers.
Calling for these soldiers to be organized in state militias, Washington stressed that these men should always "be held in readiness for service, nearly in the same manner the Minute Men formerly were."
Washington's ideas weren't pursued by Congress, but his idea persevered. Through the years, many political leaders recognized the need to have trained citizenry ready to support the regular Army.
The Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 and exposed gaps in our readiness. And raised concerns over our Nation's ability to meet the needs of an America moving onto the world stage. On April 23, 1908 -- exactly 100 years ago -- Congress established the earliest incarnation of today's Army Reserve, the Medical Reserve Corps. One month later, one of the heroes of the Spanish-American War -- and one of our country's greatest citizen soldiers - signed that bill into law. His name was Theodore Roosevelt - a citizen soldier later recognized with our Nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor. One of three Reservists to hold our Nation's highest office.
In June of 1908, the first class of 160 medical professionals received Reserve commissions in the U.S. Army.
Despite this modest start, the advantages of an organization that could smoothly incorporate citizens into the Army were quickly recognized. In 1912, the Regular Army Reserve was created.
At first, it grew slowly. One year after its creation, the Reserve had only eight men. But that soon changed, partly because of the threat of Mexican Revolutionary Pancho Villa.
Our nation's trouble with Villa began in 1915, when we recognized Villa's rival as the leader of Mexico's government. In retaliation, Villa began attacking American property and citizens in northern Mexico. In January 1916, he raided a train in northern Mexico and captured 17 Americans who worked for a mining company and executed all but one of them.
Two months later, Villa's men invaded New Mexico. There, his men killed 14 American Soldiers with the 13th Regiment. He murdered 10 civilians, and looted and burned their property.
Six days later, on orders from President Woodrow Wilson, General John Pershing led an invasion force of 10,000 men into Mexico. That force included some 3,000 Reserve Soldiers.
Although American troops never captured Villa, their deployment kept him at bay -- successfully preventing a second Mexican-American war.
A year later, we entered World War I. The once-small Reserve surged -- the volunteer force rising to the immense challenge -- and ultimately proved to be an essential part of the Allied victory. Some 160,000 members of the Reserves were called to active duty in that conflict, serving in every division of the American Expeditionary Force in France.
Reserve Soldiers have distinguished themselves over the 100-year history of the Reserve. I would like to reflect, with you, on the service of a handful of our Reserve's greatest heroes, beginning with Eddie Rickenbacker.
A well-known racecar driver -- he raced four times in the Indy 500 -- Rickenbacker helped organize a group of men ready to join the European conflict even before the U.S. declared war.
So when the U.S. entered the war, Rickenbacker arrived with the first American troops. From the get-go, he wanted to be a fighter pilot.
Unfortunately for Rickenbacker, most men chosen for pilot training came from top universities, and that left him out. So Rickenbacker instead pursued a position as an engineering officer at a flight training facility, and learned to fly during his free time.
Soon thereafter, Rickenbacker earned a slot in the 94th Aero Squadron. By War's end, he had flown 300 combat hours -- more than any other U.S. pilot in the war.
And he distinguished himself as the Allies' best pilot, with 26 victories.
Two of those victories happened on April 29, 1918, when Rickenbacker took on seven German aircraft. He shot down two of them, and for that effort, he earned the Medal of Honor. When he returned home, he had been dubbed America's "Ace of Aces" by the press.
And then there's the 81st Infantry Division.
While preparing for the war at Camp Jackson, SC, the men of the 81st decided to put a patch on their uniforms -- a black wildcat on an olive drab circle.
This practice was unheard of then, so other units protested loudly. So loud that their complaints rose all the way to General Pershing. But he approved the Wildcat trademark -- and praised the men for their spirit.
Today, of course, patches are as important to the Army as shined shoes.
The period between the First and Second World War was not an easy one for the Reserves. In the early days, there was no pay for unit drills -- and no pension was offered.
But one man stood out -- John McAuley Palmer. We might not be here tonight if it weren't for him.
A career officer in the Regular Army, serving as General Pershing's Assistant Chief of Staff, Palmer was tasked soon after the war with formulating America's military policy.
Versed in George Washington's "Sentiments," Palmer believed that Washington's plan was the best system of national defense ever proposed. Today, Palmer is credited as the guiding force behind the National Defense Act of 1920, which reaffirmed our nation's reliance on the citizen soldier.
At the start of the Second World War, fewer than 3,000 Reserve Soldiers were on active duty. Though the Reserves had been under-resourced during the inter-war years, they again answered America's call. One year later, some 57,000 Soldiers were part of the Army Reserve. By the end of the war, over 200,000 Reserve Soldiers were on active duty.
During the conflict, around a quarter of all Army officers that served in that War were members of the Reserve. In fact, Reserve Soldiers comprised most of the mid-grade officer positions in Army combat units.
And, again, Reserve Soldiers distinguished themselves.
Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle -- an M.I.T. graduate and pioneer in the use of aviation instrumentation -- was tasked with planning the first aerial raid on the Japanese homeland.
He volunteered not just to plan it -- but to lead it. His mission was successful, as his men hit targets in Tokyo, Kobe, Osaka, and Nagoya. His accomplishment sent American morale soaring, as it demonstrated the vulnerability of the Japanese islands.
The action earned Doolittle a promotion to brigadier general just - and a Medal of Honor.
Most of us here know the story of the heroism of the Rangers at Normandy on D-Day, and every Texas Aggie in the room tonight knows the name of Reserve LTC James Earl Rudder.
On D-Day, as commander of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, he led his men - "Rudder's Rangers" - across the beach at Pointe du Hoc and -- despite withering enemy fire -- scaled 100-foot cliffs to reach and destroy German gun batteries.
Rudder was shot twice that day, but kept fighting for two days. More than half his Rangers became casualties, but they helped establish a beachhead for the Allied forces.
By war's end, Rudder was one of the most decorated Soldiers of the war - earning the Distinguished Service Cross, Legion of Merit, Silver Star, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. After the war, he continued his distinguished citizen soldier service as President of Texas A&M University, preparing generations of Soldiers for service in our nation's military.
The most-decorated combat team of the war -- the 442nd Infantry Regiment - is one of the Reserve's greatest stories.
After Pearl Harbor, the United States classified every Japanese American male as 4C -- which meant they were "enemy alien" and unable to join the armed forces.
In Hawaii, this disqualified nearly 40 percent of the population. Determined to join the war effort, those who were disqualified petitioned General Delos Emmons, the commander of the U.S. Army in Hawaii, and he allowed the men to organize.
They called themselves the Varsity Victory Volunteers, performing various construction jobs for the military.
Despite their demonstrated patriotism, hard and dedicated work, Gen. Emmons had lingering concerns about their loyalty if Japan invaded the U.S. He asked the War Department to re-designate the unit as the "Hawaiian Provisional Battalion" and train them on the mainland.
Shortly thereafter, they were sent to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin and designated the 100th Infantry Battalion. They performed so well in training that the government reversed its earlier decision, sending the 100th Infantry Battalion off to combat in North Africa and Italy, and approving the formation of a separate Japanese American combat unit, designated as the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team.
The 442nd chose "Go For Broke" -- a Hawaiian slang term from the dice game craps -- as their motto, as these men prided themselves on their willingness to risk everything - and risk everything they did.
In June of 1944, the 442nd joined the 100th Infantry Battalion in Italy and plunged into combat.
In October, after fighting their way through Italy and into eastern France, the battalion thought it was going to get some much-needed rest.
But another unit - about 200 Texans in the 141st Texas Regiment - had gotten cut off from friendly units and were surrounded by German forces in the Vosges Mountains.
The 442nd was sent to rescue them on Oct. 25. The embattled Texans, dubbed the "Lost Battalion," were about four miles behind enemy lines - the 442nd, low on food, rest, ammo and men, moved forward and pushed the Germans backwards, through a gully - and fell into a trap. The Germans hit them hard with artillery, wounding 20. The 442nd pushed on and fought near-constant battles with the Germans for the next two days.
The Texans were desperate. They'd been cut off for six days. They couldn't evacuate the wounded or recover their dead.
By October 29th, the 442nd had fought for five straight days, with little progress. That day, PVT George Sakato led a charge that rescued his pinned squad and destroyed a German stronghold. He earned a Distinguished Service Cross.
The next day, the 442nd finally broke through to the 141st and saved the "Lost Battalion." The 442nd suffered more than 800 casualties in five days and nights of continuous fighting. And there was little rest in the cards for them.
In April the next year, a lieutenant in the 442nd named Daniel Inouye was leading his men in an assault on a heavily defended hill near San Terenzo, Italy. During the assault, he was shot through the stomach; the bullet came out his back, barely missing his spine.
LT Inouye did what leaders do - his continued the assault. When he saw a German machine gun nest that was pinning down his men, he charged forward - alone - and tossed two grenades at the enemy position and destroyed it.
He turned his attention to a second position when a German rifle grenade exploded nearby and mangled his right arm. LT Inouye threw his last grenade with his left hand, grabbed his submachine gun and continued to attack until he was finally knocked down the hill by a bullet to the leg.
He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery, and later a Medal of Honor.
Extraordinary valor was ordinary for the 442nd - "Go for broke." By war's end, the unit had received 18,000 individual decorations, one Medal of Honor, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, 560 Silver Stars - with 28 Oak Leaf Clusters, 4,000 Bronze Stars - with 1,200 Oak Leaf Clusters and 9,486 Purple Hearts.
The 442nd became -- and remains -- the most decorated combat unit in the history of the United States Army. In 1947, the 442nd was designated as an Organized Reserve unit. And today, it's the only remaining Infantry unit in the Army Reserve.
On June 21, 2000, President Clinton presented the Medal of Honor to 20 more men who fought with the 442nd in World War II - including PVT George Sakato and Senator - then LT - Daniel Inouye.
In the Korean War, the Reserves again were key -- 240,000 Reserve Soldiers were called to active duty and 971 Reserve units were mobilized. And seven Reserve Soldiers received the Medal of Honor.
In 1990, the U.S. Army Reserve Command was established and the Army Reserve began its transition from its role as a strategic reserve to an operational force.
The following year, nearly 90,000 Reserve Soldiers helped liberate Kuwait as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Reserve Soldiers served in nearly every capacity during the conflict.
And Reserve Soldiers paid heavily. On February 25, 1991, an Iraqi Scud missile killed 28 Army Reservists, and wounded almost 100 others. It was the largest single loss of Coalition forces in the war.
By the close of the 20th Century, the Army Reserve accounted for 40 percent of the Army's Combat Support and Combat Service Support Units.
In 2001, the Army elevated the U.S. Army Reserve Command to a three-star command, directly reporting to the Army Chief of Staff.
And today the Reserve is on the front lines. Less than a month after 9/11, America launched Operation Enduring Freedom, toppling the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Army Reserve was there.
In March of 2003, when Operation Iraqi Freedom began, the Army Reserve was there again, fighting side by side with the other Armed Forces and coalition allies until Baghdad fell.
That wasn't the end of the story, of course. Reserve Soldiers are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. they've displayed great courage.
In April 2004, a convoy with the 724th Transportation Company came under attack. SPC Jeremy Church battled the insurgents -- rescuing many Soldiers and saving many civilians. For his actions, he received the first Silver Star awarded to an Army Reserve Soldier in Iraq.
In February of last year, a would-be suicide bomber in Afghanistan arrived at a hospital. SSG Jason Fetty, a 339th Combat Support Hospital Solder attached to the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade, stopped the bomber and fought him in hand-to-hand combat, preventing the attack. He received the first Silver Star awarded to an Army Reserve Soldier in Afghanistan.
I do not need to tell you what the cost of war is. In the current conflicts, 158 members of the Army Reserve have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. An additional 1,195 have been wounded in action.
Some Reserve Soldiers already have served two and even three combat tours.
That is much to ask of the volunteer Soldiers and the volunteer families. But when our Nation calls - the citizen Soldiers of our Army Reserve answer the call - and their Families stand with them.
Speaking at the 40th anniversary of D-Day after reflecting on the service and sacrifices of our servicemen who stormed the beach at Normandy, former Army Reserve Captain Ronald Reagan spoke for our Nation when he told us:
"We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free."
Tonight we remember 100 years of the selfless service of our Army Reserve - and very proud we are. And tonight, as we look to our next 100 years, we recommit to always be prepared, so that future generations of Americans will always be free.
God has blessed our great Nation with citizen soldiers and their families.
Thank you for your service.