JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. -- Investing time in establishing personal relationships with legislators is good for the Army because it results in a shared understanding of issues of great importance to all Americans, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

McCarthy spoke at a reception prior to a Twilight Tattoo here May 23, where he honored bipartisan House Army Caucus co-chairmen Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) and Rep. John R. Carter (R-Texas).

During his earlier career in banking and later in the military, McCarthy said he was taught by mentors the importance of relationships.

The under secretary said he recalled his old boss, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, saying relationships are "the grease that runs Washington."

Senior Army leaders, including McCarthy, are often seen on television testifying in Senate and House hearings, such as the armed services and appropriations committees.

But a lot of communication and trust building goes on behind the scenes and away from the cameras, he said.

Senior Army leaders constantly meet with senators and representatives in other venues besides the Twilight Tattoo, such at breakfasts and lunches in various locations, and often invite them to the Pentagon, he said.

Congressional delegation trips to military installations and to units participating in overseas operations are especially important because lawmakers and military leaders spend a great deal of time with each other and come away with a first-hand grasp of issues important to the Army and to the nation, McCarthy said.

"You have to invest in a relationship. You have to give it time. And, it's always best to do it before you have to deal with a challenging issue," he said. "The more you invest in personal relationships, the easier it is to work through difficult issues."

The reward for doing that is getting the funding and authorities needed to proceed with increasing Army readiness, modernizing the force and implementing institutional reforms, he said.

An essential component of establishing personal bonds is being a good listener, he said. Lawmakers have a lot of things to deal with besides military matters. There are roads that need paving, schools that need funding, healthcare issues, and constituent needs and concerns.

It's important to have an appreciation for those other issues and in turn, the Army must communicate the rationale behind every penny it spends and why it's the very best return on investment to the taxpayers, he said. "We're quite frankly, asking for their help."

The under secretary expressed appreciation for lawmakers' contributions to national defense, particularly the 127 Army House Caucus members and 33 senators in the Army Senate Caucus.

"The Army Caucus is great because you feel you're at home," he said. "Everyone has a unique appreciation for challenges faced in organizing, equipping and training the force, keeping units ready and taking care of families."

He said he was especially glad to honor Ruppersberger and Carter at the event. "These two men absolutely meet the interests of the Army and they give us the strategic council we need."

McCarthy also noted the importance of having Twilight Tattoos. He mentioned the busloads of school children from the surrounding area who were in attendance, invited press and leaders of industry that are getting a taste of Army history and traditions in a very dramatic fashion.