WASHINGTON -- With a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle and an unmanned aerial surveillance drone as the backdrop, Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning answered questions from Soldiers and civilians assigned to U.S. Forces Afghanistan, including 1st Cavalry Division, at a town hall event at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan Friday, Sept. 16.
"I want the Soldiers to know there is nothing more that I enjoy than coming to the field and spending time together," said Fanning. "We greatly appreciate the sacrifices they are making, along with [the sacrifices made by] their families back home."
The stop was the secretary's first in a multi-day trip across Central Command's area of operation to visit Soldiers and gain firsthand knowledge of the Army's support of critical missions in a combat theater.
"It's always nice to talk to somebody at the level at the Pentagon … to discuss what we feel as Soldiers," said Warrant Officer Raul Lewis of Charleston, South Carolina.
During the town hall, the Soldiers' questions touched on a number of topics that ranged from how the Army is taking care of Family members, to what shape the Army will take in years to come, to how it will meet advances of potential adversaries.
Fanning discussed the recent creation of the Rapid Capabilities Office, which is meant to prototype and field technology to arm and equip Soldiers more efficiently. The office is part of a broader effort by Fanning to improve the acquisitions process for Soldiers.
He explained the office is meant, "to get capabilities to the field as fast as possible," and provide vital support for Soldiers as they deploy to places like Afghanistan. The office shows the Army is "doing what we can to have the decisive edge that our Soldiers need in the field," Fanning explained.
Sgt. Hand Cooper of Norfolk, Virginia said that Fanning, "told us where we are heading in the future. It means somebody in the Pentagon is actually coming down to speak to us one on one … Somebody is looking out for us."
Fanning also told Soldiers that the Army must, "focus on, appreciate, and include diversity and get as many points of view in on a problem set as possible."
To foster this kind of environment throughout the Army, Fanning said the Army must, "find people that take risks and make sure that we reward that and show it is not a zero-defect culture." He went on to say, "failure is how you learn and know that you are pushing the envelope."
At the conclusion of the town Hall, the secretary thanked all for attending and for their continued service. He personally presented coins and shook the hands of all Soldiers present. He concluded the visit with a group selfie.