By Lance D. DavisFebruary 26, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 26, 2009) - Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston spoke about the impact of volunteerism and national service Wednesday on Capitol Hill to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor.
This was the first full committee education hearing in the 111th Congress with a theme of examining the importance of "renewing America through national service and volunteerism."
"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," Preston said to begin his congressional testimony, quoting the late 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy. "It is our responsibility as Americans to volunteer our time and effort to make the nation and local communities better places to live and thrive."
Preston made it known that the Army has consisted of volunteers for years. "This past July we celebrated the 35th anniversary of our all-volunteer force," he said. "In 2008, we recruited approximately 170,000 young men and women across all three components of the Active, Guard and Reserve."
According to Preston, the Army has seen the most successful retention period in history just in the first three months of fiscal year 2009. He also added accomplishments like these are not only attributed to young men and women who volunteer to serve, but also to the hard work of recruiters, Army leaders, support of Congress and the support from the nation.
"Throughout history, volunteers played an integral role in the life of Soldiers and their families," Preston told Congress. "In the early years of our country, volunteers mended uniforms, cared for the sick and wounded and comforted families of fallen Soldiers.
He went on to describe volunteers of today as Soldiers, spouses, retirees, civilians and youth who support the Army and its Army Community Service volunteer programs through providing their services in schools, hospitals and many other organizations and offices to meet the needs of the Army and communities.
"The Army Community Service has more than 10,000 volunteers who contribute more than 1 million hours of service every year," Preston said. "Through their dedicated service, volunteers transform military installations into communities."
Preston concluded his testimony by acknowledging how proud he is that this year celebrates the noncommissioned officer and by emphasizing the need for the implementation of programs and policies to support the sustainment and growth of noncommissioned officers.
"The Noncommissioned Officer Corps is the reason behind our success on the battlefield today and why other armies around the world aspire to be like us," he said.
Along with Preston, there were eight other witnesses, including former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania; Richard Stengel, managing editor of TIME Magazine; and Usher Raymond IV, recording artist and chairman of Usher's New Look Foundation.
The House Committee on Education and Labor is chaired by Rep. George Miller of California.