Oct. 15, 2014 --VCSA's remarks at AUSA 4th Region Breakfast

By U.S. ArmyOctober 17, 2014

Well you know you can always tell a former Non-Commissioned officer because they follow orders with the best of them. So, thank you Ron and thanks to Lauren and a group of folks in this room who helped our family be what they are. You know the life a Soldier is filled with many deployments, and it takes a whole neighborhood to help raise an Army Family, and we certainly have been the beneficiaries of that, and there are a lot of folks in this room that helped take care of my family when I was deployed while in Command of the First Team.

Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to have breakfast with this diverse and prestigious group from the great AUSA Fourth Region. I want to welcome all of you to our Nation's capital. I think you probably know what the best thing is about coming to Washington D.C. for the AUSA . . . . that you get to leave here tomorrow . . . and I don't. You can all laugh, but I have to go back to the Pentagon after this. So be thankful for where you are going and what you are going to do.

As many of you know, I share very special ties to the 4th Region from my time in America's First Team and on Fort Hood. While I commanded the 1st Cavalry Division, it is important to note that I also commanded at that "other" large military base located just south of here in North Carolina, in fact I just moved here from there. So, while my loyalties are regionally diverse, my love of Soldiers and excellence is universal, and I want to acknowledge that Fort Hood once again won the competition for the largest AUSA Chapter in the World, so, congratulations, how about a round of applause. These two posts, Fort Hood and Fort Bragg are our largest in terms of population, and pursue excellence, head to head. In fact, I think I overheard a Fort Hood member challenging a Fort Bragg Member to a cow-tipping contest . . . though that conversation occurred Sunday afternoon and neither has been sighted since . . . I suspect they're somewhere in this concrete jungle looking for the cow to tip!

Of course AUSA 4th Region is much more than Fort Hood and I want to recognize the contributions of all of our chapters. While talking to the leaders from the different chapters this morning, something occurred to me that I am having trouble making sense of quite frankly: Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas . . . and it is October. How does any cooperation happen in this Region during college football season? As if the Big 12 versus the SEC were not enough, we just witnessed the Texas versus Oklahoma "Red River Rivalry" last weekend . . . and I know our Aggie fans are glad they won't face another team from Mississippi this Saturday! Though I suspect 'Bama' is going to be waiting!

Apparently you work through the college football rivalries, though, because the contribution to our military by the AUSA Fourth Region is truly impressive. Notably, the work many of our local associations have done with Homeless Veterans, specifically the Fires Chapter at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the AUSA Houston chapter. This work is really important to the overall health of our force. How we treat our Veterans today directly affects the next generation's desire to serve. Lest I forget the Alamo Chapter in "Military City USA." The San Antonio chapter makes a significant difference in the lives of our Soldiers, Veterans, and especially our Wounded Warriors. Well done across the board and let's give them all a round of applause.

I am particularly glad we have a healthy cadre of ROTC cadets here today . . . when we talk about the future of our Army . . . it is you who will lead that great Army into the future! Our conference theme is "Trusted Professionals: Today and Tomorrow," which is appropriate for our current focus on Force 2025 and Beyond. Trust is the foundation of our All-Volunteer Army that has performed brilliantly over the last 40 years, and particularly over the last 13 years of combat. We must maintain the trust between Soldiers, trust between Soldiers and their leaders, and between the Army and the American people.

As we look towards tomorrow, we should anticipate that the Army will be asked to do more and more . . . with fewer and fewer resources. Yet I am encouraged and frankly I'm inspired by the deepest bench of experienced leaders that our Army has ever known. The President reminded us at West Point last May that "America must always lead on the world stage. If we don't, no one else will." The Chief of Staff of the Army's top priorities include leader development and building a regionally engaged and globally responsive force. While we are unlikely to deploy 150,000 Soldiers in response to a single crisis, we are continuously deploying tailored packages that shape the theaters and deter ill-intended adversaries. We recently published a new Army Operating Concept explaining how we will build our future Force. It prioritizes leader development and focuses investment on our Soldiers so we can adapt and thrive in an uncertain future. We have learned from 13 years of war that we need resilient, culturally-aware Soldiers who can react and overcome adversity, and adapt to unpredictable environments. While technology remains important, and we will fund the right systems . . . ultimately Soldiers win wars based on tough training, inspired by courageous, competent leaders of character.

We will continue to regionally align our units so that combatant commanders have mission-tailored forces capable of shaping their security environment, deterring conflict, and, if required, applying decisive force. We recently demonstrated this agility once again as we deployed elements of the 173d Airborne and 12th Combat Aviation Brigade to Eastern Europe to counter Russian aggression, the mission which the Iron Horse Brigade of 1/1 Cav Division assumed just this week. The 1st Armor Division headquarters remains forward postured in Jordan, and the 4th Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division is dispersed across Africa, having high impact in about 15 different countries as we speak this morning. We are currently preparing forces to support the Iraqi Army in the fight against ISIL, and to deploy to West Africa in response to the Ebola crisis. All the while we have more than 80,000 Soldiers deployed or forward-stationed in the Pacific, who remain engaged in this critical region. Yes, our Army is at ground-zero, building a Global Landpower Network of partnerships for the future.

To our young leaders in the audience, be prepared. I believe our Soldiers join the Army to train hard and do exciting things in far-off places, and I anticipate you will get that opportunity . . . in fact, you will lead our Army in this important and vital mission.

Of course we face many challenges, and from my seat in the Pentagon our biggest task is maintaining balance between the size of our force, its level of readiness, and its modernization. As our budget decreases we must bring down the size of the force and level off the rising cost of a Soldier in order to have adequate resources for training and modernization. Soldiers join to train and deploy, so we must ensure we have adequate resources to have them properly trained, and optimally equipped when called upon to fight, which once again we will.

Many of you have heard the Korean War story of Task Force Smith, but it is instructive to revisit during this time of transition. In 1950, five years after World War II concluded, the United States Army's presence in the Pacific remained significant but was mostly focused on occupation duty in Japan, and we paid too little attention to training or upgrading equipment. In late June of 1950 the North Koreans invaded south and General Douglas MacArthur ordered the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry led by LTC Charles Smith . . . thus the name Task Force Smith . . . to move forward toward Osan to halt the Communist advance. But as the first wave of Soviet T-34 tanks that had been given to the North Koreans moved towards Task Force Smith's position, the Americans learned our rocket launchers and 75 mm recoilless rifles could not penetrate the Russian armor. Next they discovered they could not communicate targets to the artillery stationed several miles in the rear because the enemy had cut their field phone wires and they were not adequately trained on their wireless radios. It was too cloudy for air cover, and the North Koreans easily overran Task Force Smith, killing 60 Americans, wounding 21 more, and capturing 82. We paid in blood for our unpreparedness.

So as our budget decreases we will absorb, and not repeat this lesson from history, and we echo the battle cry "No more Task Force Smiths." We are moving towards a significantly smaller Army, and sequestration's across-the-board cuts will strike most significantly against our readiness and modernization, because we cannot reduce Soldiers on short notice. During sequestration in 2013 we cut 7 Combat Training Center rotations and only had 3 Brigade Combat Teams adequately trained. We put modernization programs on hold until we could get back in balance. This is why we are so adamant about the need to change the law that returns sequestration in 2016. Furthermore, sequestration will force the Army to reduce below the manning threshold we require to meet the President's 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. So with help from AUSA we are working hard to keep a strong and balanced Army, because, as the former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told us last year at this very convention: "those who now assert we will only fight certain kinds of war in the future forget history and the reality that our enemies always have a vote." We do not ever again want to pay in blood for our shortcomings.

So I want to conclude by again thanking the members of the AUSA 4th Region for all that you do for our Soldiers. While I spoke a lot about our challenges, I want to remind you that we are the greatest Army on the planet, and to the young Soldiers and Cadets present, I am extraordinarily jealous of you, and quite frankly, were my wife not here to defend my current LES, I would gladly trade places with you. The American Soldier--ready, resilient, experienced, adaptable and strong--is what will safeguard the future of this great nation . . . and in the words of General Creighton Abrams: "People aren't in the Army, People Are the Army." Thank all of you for supporting our National Treasures, the Soldiers who serve our Country. God Bless you, and Army Strong.