WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 12, 2008) "It's very hard as a citizen, watching the news, to get an appreciation for what's really happening on the ground (in Iraq)," said retired Army colonel Marc Hildebrand, following a briefing on the conditions in Baghdad from Col. J.B. Burton, Deputy Undersecretary of the Army executive officer and recent brigade commander in Iraq.
Hildebrand was one of 14 members of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Ft. Worth to receive a briefing on the state of the Army from leaders at the Pentagon Friday, as part of the Army Executive Partnerships ongoing program to engage with business and community leaders.
The program was created to give civilians a better understanding of the Army and its operations, including the global war on terror.
World Affairs Council members heard from six Army leaders Friday. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, deputy chief of Public Affairs, opened the visit with remarks on the importance of community involvement. Following lunch, Maj. Gen. Vincent Boles, assistant deputy chief of staff, Army Logistics, briefed them on the state of the Army. Col. Robert Faille, Strategic Effects Division joint staff chief, discussed the Army's role in the global war on terror.
Then, after council members received a guided tour of the Pentagon, recently-returned brigade commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, Col. J.B. Burton, deputy undersecretary of the Army executive officer, and Col. Martin Schweitzer, Senate Liaison Division chief, expounded on that by sharing their deployment experiences. Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., director of Army Staff, concluded the visit with his views on where the Army is headed.
"I've had the privilege of attending several of these briefings, and I just wish everybody could have this opportunity," said World Affairs Council president and CEO, James N. Falk. "The media does not give people a full, comprehensive view of what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today we had the opportunity to hear not just Pollyanna, but what's really happening."
Amber Benoit, a manager at Alvarez & Marshal Real Estate Advisory Services in Dallas, also said she appreciated hearing from Army leaders.
"I think it's a great opportunity to hear from people who are directly involved with what you hear about in the news," said Benoit. "It makes it seem more real to get a sense of what people in the Army think is going on. And being able see what it's like to work here in the Pentagon is also a great opportunity."
In his closing remarks, Huntoon said he hoped that "fly-in" visitors to the Pentagon, such as the World Affairs Council members, would carry what they experienced Friday back to their communities.
"We have a lot of challenges in the Army right now," Huntoon said. "We are always cognizant that the mission of the military, all services, is to fight and win the nation's wars. And that when you call us, through your elected officials, we've got to be ready: whether it's for a counter-insurgency operation, or a conventional forces fight. If there's something you could do for Soldiers and their families, it is simply to do this kind of a thing. You are leaders in your communities, and it's important that you maintain a high level of knowledge about what's really taking place."
Which is exactly what the visiting World Affairs Council members would do, Falk said. "The purpose of our World Affairs Council is to connect north Texas with the world," he explained. "Any way that we can educate our members and give them an opportunity to be better informed is what we're there to do. We brought 14 people here, and they'll go back to our board, who really are some of the leaders of our community, and they'll convey what they heard today. And that really is beneficial."