I’ve been thinking this month about balance.
We are spending a lot of time in the Army today – appropriately – focused on our people, on rooting out those elements that damage our force, and on addressing failings which have hurt our Soldiers and broken trust with the nation we’ve vowed to defend.
These conversations have been hard at times, uncomfortable on occasion, but absolutely essential to ensuring our Army is living up to the values we’ve long defined as the heart and soul of who we are.
But I want to remind us all that it is critical we strike the appropriate equilibrium between this and the work that has been the bread and butter of our profession for the entire existence of America’s Army: training Soldiers for the hardships of war.
A couple weeks ago, First Army supported a send-off ceremony for one of the great Iowa National Guard units we partner with: Bravo Company of the 1-171st Aviation Regiment. This company was departing Davenport, en route to Fort Hood, Texas, to partner with First Army's 166th Aviation Brigade. They will then head to the Middle East and assume a critical aviation mission within Operation Spartan Shield.
As I thought about 1-171, I found myself thinking not only of those young, patriotic troopers. I found myself thinking of their spouses, their parents, their children. And I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that the training they have gotten up until now, the training they will get from our First Army OC/Ts going forward, may be difference between life and death as they deploy into harm’s way for their nation.
First Army must never lose sight of the rigorous, realistic, and relevant training that is essential in our partnership with the reserve component. Readiness and training have always been the hallmark of a winning Army. All the way back in 500 BC, Confucius said, “To lead an untrained people to war is to throw them away.” General Dwight Eisenhower echoed that in World War II: “Nothing is easy in war,” he said, “and mistakes are paid in casualties.”
In my mind, “People First,” means many things, but at the top of that list is “well-trained.”
The profession of arms is one with the highest of stakes. I will never forget the day I returned from deployment as a company first sergeant. I hugged my wife hello, but then spent the bulk of my first hours back on U.S. soil with the families of my Soldiers who had not made it home. I could not have looked any of them in the eye had I believed that a single one of their losses had stemmed from inadequate training.
As we build a 21st century Army, our foundation must be strong. That foundation is our training. Our people – from the lowest ranks to the highest, from every background and demographic – will be the beneficiaries of it.
We owe our Soldiers – those men and women who represent the one percent of America willing to put on a military uniform – many things. We owe them the ability to work in an environment free of sexual harassment and assault. We owe them the chance to excel and rise due to their hard work and leadership potential regardless of their sex or skin color or background. And we owe them our unwavering commitment to ensuring they are the most trained and ready Army on this globe so that they can deploy, fight and win wars – and then come safely home.