By Mr. Aaron P Talley (IMCOM)May 5, 2017
VICENZA, Italy -- The Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says the character of conflict is changing, and the U.S. military must adapt to keep up with global threats.
Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell serves as the principal military advisor to the Chairman and the Secretary of Defense, and spoke about the importance of changing the way troops think about deployments and military engagements during a visit here May 1.
"I think a little bit of complacency has set in because of how we were doing operations in the past, with large formations going in, year after year, to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, to try and build stability or steady-state operations," Troxell said.
"What we've seen lately, as we've reduced our footprints in Iraq and Afghanistan … is that we have this smaller footprint of troops around the world, but we still have about the same number of troops that are deployed."
He pointed out this means that while the mission might be changing, the need for being ready to deploy hasn't changed.
"I want to make sure these troops understand that we still have a high operational tempo, and we still have to deploy places to make sure we're defending the homeland. This kind of expeditionary mindset that we've asked them to have in the past is going to be enduring."
Troxell said the U.S. military is focused more on assisting other nations and building partner capacity, training, advising and accompanying local security forces.
"As we're trying to deter aggression and assure our allies, the character of conflict has changed a little bit in terms of what we're doing. Now more of the onus for defeating the threats is on the host nation we are advising and assisting."
He said this shift in responsibility has allowed host nations to combat regional threats while lessening the exposure of U.S. forces.
"It has not only significantly reduced the threat, physically, to our forces, but the risk to mission failure as well."
Troxell emphasized the importance of U.S. Army Africa and 173rd Airborne Brigade, both headquartered in Vicenza, in accomplishing these missions.
While he said Africa has traditionally been treated as a lower priority than the Middle East, threats like al-Shabaab and Boko Haram have started to have much broader implications, including the spread of ISIS into Africa. He emphasized this as why U.S. Army Africa is so important to the current mission and added that USARAF's efforts on the continent have allowed the U.S. to combat these violent extremist organizations. USARAF has helped pursue the mission of assisting local security forces and building partner capacity in areas that need it.
"When you talk about mitigating risks and getting mission results, the forces under U.S. Army Africa are doing a phenomenal job," he said. "They may not have all the requisite resources they need, but they are understanding the risk. They are mitigating that risk, and they are getting after the mission down there.
"(With) my exposure to U.S. Army Africa and during my travels in Africa, I've seen nothing but great things that they're doing down there, and that they're going to continue to do."
As for operations in Europe, Troxell said having the 173rd Airborne Brigade stationed in Italy is a huge benefit in deterring foreign aggression to many eastern European countries.
"Because it's an airborne brigade and forward deployed here in Italy, this is a ready force for forced entry capability if we need it, wherever that may be. If there's some kind of contingency operation in Africa, or contingency operation in Europe, we have this forced-entry airborne brigade that can do that."
He said the 173rd has earned a reputation around the world as an elite combat brigade, through its actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"When we take a brigade like that and we put it as part of an enhanced forward package in Eastern Europe and partner them with countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, this is a great way to not only assure our allies, but also to deter any kind of aggression to those countries or any U.S. interest," Troxell said.
He finished by saying that both the brigade and USARAF are well positioned to face whatever conflicts they encounter, in whatever form they take. The "character of conflict" may be changing, but Vicenza units are changing right along with them to meet the challenges of the future.