JOINT BASE EUSTIS-LANGLEY, Va. -- Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning wants the nation at large to understand its Army better.
His intent is not a personal goal, but rather a mission he has directed the Army to undertake, he said during a recent visit to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, on Thursday, Aug. 25. Fanning's day began with keynote remarks at the Army Training and Doctrine Command Commanders' Forum.
In his remarks, he described his focus and priorities for the Army's way ahead, such as resourcing, building the budget, sequestration and hot topics on Capitol Hill, and he placed special emphasis on joint warfighting as well as transparency and communication across the Army.
"We are a joint force now. We rely on the Air Force. We rely on the Navy, but they all definitely rely on us," said Fanning. "
"Where that joint fight comes together in so many ways is on the ground with the Army. We need to think about that and talk about that differently than we do and really embrace what we do in support of the joint force that nobody else can do in our military or any of the militaries in the world."
Fanning addressed questions from senior leaders present for the forum, a quarterly information-sharing gathering that guides the development and execution of Force 2025 and Beyond, and provided guidance on the execution of TRADOC core functions.
He discussed cultural strategies he has observed that could benefit the Army in the future as well as potential risks and opportunities that may arise from the upcoming presidential election, the Army's 2017 audit readiness requirement, and the merging of medical capabilities under the National Defense Authorization Act.
Addressing a question about how senior leaders can tell the Army's story as part of the Army's "Meet Your Army," an outreach initiative, Fanning suggested that leaders tell stories "through the eyes of the Soldiers" to describe "all the amazing things that our Soldiers are doing."
The secretary also spoke with senior leaders' spouses separately, during which he took note of and addressed concerns that affect families. He also stressed his commitment to the Army's fight on sexual assault.
"We've done a substantial amount of work on response but not enough on prevention," Fanning said. "I want to make the response part unnecessary and the prevention part right."
Fanning discussed the relationship between behavioral health, suicide prevention and post-traumatic stress disorder, and he related an account of his recent medical visit to receive an elbow brace. While many people don't hesitate to seek medical help for a physical ailment, he observed, that does not always seem to be the case when they are struggling with a mental issue.
"Most people's brains are more complicated than my elbow," he said. "Why would we have a stigma attached in seeing a specialist for the most complex organ in the body?"
Fanning concluded his trip with a visit to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) located at Third Port, where he met with vessel crew members and Army divers of the "Army's Navy" to get a firsthand look at how they contribute to the fight.
The large tug vessel master for Army Vessel Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott (LT-805), a large ocean-going tug boat with the 73rd Transportation Company, Chief Warrant Officer 4 William Sherman explained the vessel's capabilities to Fanning.
"Recently, for the Navy we towed one of their tugs from Guantanamo Bay to Florida and we're going to tow it back in the near future," Sherman said, noting how joint missions with the Navy provide savings for the sister service.
"We also did a barge mission for them towing equipment," added Sherman, the most senior tug vessel master at the 73rd. "All told, we'll have saved the Navy about $300,000 instead of using contracted civilian tugs."