Fort Stewart, Georgia - Acting Secretary of the Army Robert M. Speer visited the Soldiers and facilities of Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Stewart, Ga. March 24, to better understand challenges the Army is currently facing with readiness, modernization, and resourcing shortfalls.

"We, as a nation, have to fund our equipment, train our Soldiers and modernize our Army to improve readiness," said Speer.

Speer made it clear that funding is essential to modernization and mission readiness, and he urged Leaders to continue to develop Soldiers' skills to the best of their abilities no matter the budget.

"I challenge each of you to build readiness while understanding the challenges of the current funding levels," said Speer.

The visit was one of several the Acting Secretary has made to military installations as he looks to gather information to better frame his perspectives on readiness, modernization, and resourcing. Understanding these issues will be particularly useful if called to testifies as part of the upcoming budgetary hearings on Capitol Hill. The congressional hearings, know as a posture hearings, help Congress determine how to fund the Department of Defense, including the Army for the next fiscal year.

"The FY17 Supplemental budget and FY18 budget should focus on rebuilding and reforming our Army," said Speer. "I take these trips to ensure that the funding we request is supporting programs that keep our Army ready for the future."

Speer began the day at Hunter Army Airfield, meeting with 3rd Infantry Division Deputy Commander for Support, Col. David Hamilton and other installation officials before taking a tour of the airfield's World War II facilities that need repairs.

"Our infrastructure has not been given sufficient funds for the last few years, and it is starting to affect our readiness," said Speer. "We have to take the message to Congress that we need upgrades to our infrastructure."

Speer's next stop was Fort Stewart, Ga. to meet with 3rd Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. James Rainey and leadership to discuss the operational tempo and 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division conversion into an armor unit.

Conversion of the unit will provide the nation a 15th Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT). When the conversion is complete, there will be 10 ABCTs in the Regular Army and five in the Army National Guard, ensuring a more balanced distribution of its light and heavy fighting forces.

Speer also took some time to speak to a group of field grade officers gathered for a leadership conference. Mr. Speer told the crowd that while the mission always comes first, leaders need to ensure that those who are important to them are taken care of as well.

"Readiness is always one of our top priorities. However, don't allow that focus on readiness to distract you from taking care of your families and your Soldiers."

And an important part of taking care of Soldiers, according to Speer, is making sure that Soldiers feel safe within the ranks and knowing that they can trust their leadership.

"You as leaders cannot tolerate sexual assault, harassment or misconduct," said Speer. "It affects readiness and is detrimental to Soldiers and the unit."

Speer finished his time at Fort Stewart touring Soldiers' barracks and learning about installation programs designed to help Soldiers as they return to civilian life.

"One of the best things about these visits is that I get to see the great work being done by and for our Soldiers," said Speer. "It makes me proud to be a part of such a great organization like the Army."