FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Calling the installation Warfighter Town, U.S.A, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville said Fort Bragg is where the greatest units in the world live, train and deploy from, and was the right place for the inaugural AUSA Warfighter Summit and Exposition. McConville provided opening keynote remarks during the second day of the summit, July 28, at the Fayetteville Crown Complex.
“We’ve asked a lot of the troops from Fort Bragg over the last couple of years, over the last couple of decades in fact,” he said. “As you all know, the XVIII Airborne Corps is deployed right now… the 82nd [Airborne Division] just came back … and for those in the 82nd, we have deployed you four times, no notice, at least during my tenure over the last three years… and every single time, you have excelled.”
He went on to say that during a recent visit to Germany, he was especially proud of the Soldiers who have been over there because of the praise he received for deployed Soldiers.
“It has been often said that where the American Soldier goes, freedom follows,” McConville said, “I would say right now… where the American Soldier goes, freedom stays.”
"Every one of those countries wants our Soldiers over there working side by side with them. They are reassured by our presence; they appreciate us being there. So, for all of the Soldiers that have been over there, I truly appreciate how you represent our nation, how you represent our military, how you represent our Army. What I’ve learned is there is no substitute for having American Soldiers on the ground.”
Currently, the XVIII Airborne Corps is deployed to Europe in addition to the Army’s V Corps which was reactivated in 2020 and is headquartered in Poland. There are also two divisions currently in Europe — the 101st Airborne Division and 1st Infantry Division, six brigade combat teams and two combat aviation brigades.
“So, for some of the older folks that have been around,” McConville said, “we haven’t had this type of structure in Europe in a long time.”
But he added that it is important because we are living in “very challenging times.”
“I’m not sure, at least in my 41 plus years, that I’ve seen a more potentially dangerous time for our country and our military. Take a look at Russia. In our national defense strategy, we now call them an acute threat, I think the Ukrainians would call them something else. They’ve conducted an unprovoked attack on the sovereign country of Ukraine.”
But the Army can’t only be focused on Europe, according to the National Defense Strategy, the biggest pacing challenge to the United States is China.
“We have to take a look at what is happening in Asia right now,” McConville said. “[China has] an economy nearly equal to ours, or depending on how you measure it, maybe larger than ours. But they are also building a world-class military to challenge us and to challenge the world order.”
“And while we are focused on China and Russia, we can’t take our eye off of other persistent threats that are out there — North Korea is still at threat, Iran is still a threat, and the violent extremists have not gone away. And in some cases, they are actually getting worse.”
Looking to the future and the next fight will continue to be important as the Army continues its largest transformation in over 40 years. Part of looking forward will be the Army’s ability to continue to recruit and retain an all-volunteer force.
“People are our number one priority, that is what makes us great,” McConville said. “We are in a very challenging period right now. We have got to continue to recruit and retain the world’s greatest Soldiers. And I am asking every one of you, especially our Soldiers for life out there to help us inspire others to serve.”
The Army is in the process of standing up a Future Soldier Prep Course aimed at helping America’s youth meet the Army standards.
“In my eyes, there is no other place where you can serve with the world’s great people and climb to the highest rank, no matter where you came from,” McConville said. “I often ask people why they chose to serve, and one of the best responses I ever heard was from an 82nd Soldier who said, ‘I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and realize I hadn’t made an impact.’ And I can tell you, that sergeant made an impact.”