FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan (Army News Service, July 20, 2007) - Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, yesterday visited servicemembers of Task Force Bayonet at this Forward Operating Base Fenty near Jalalabad,.

Making a whirlwind tour of both Iraq and Afghanistan in his final months as chairman, Gen. Pace took time to greet and speak with every servicemember he saw; handing out coins and offering words of encouragement.

Traveling with Gen. Pace was Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam veteran H.C. Barnum Jr., now deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for reserve affairs.

"I'm here as a grateful American," said Mr. Barnum, addressing an enthusiastic crowd in the FOB Fenty chow hall, "and I want to look each one of you in the eyes and say thank you.

"I'm also here as a fellow combat warrior," the retired Marine colonel added, "I wear this [Medal of Honor] to remind myself what it's all about. It's all about teamwork. It's not about you, it's about the team, and that's how we get things done."

During a question-and-answer session, Gen. Pace addressed the validity of rumors circulating about the possibility of 18-month deployments.

"An 18-month tour has zero, zero, none, nada, squat, nothing, no validity, ok' I want to make sure you got that," said Gen. Pace, "I want you to pretend that the 18-month thing is Dracula, and I want you to drive a wooden stake through its heart. It's not fair to our families to have rumors like that out there."

Gen. Pace explained that while deployments were increased to 15-months for the plus-up of troops both in Iraq and Afghanistan, in September he will be recommending shorter deployments and more time with families.

Deployed servicemembers aren't the only audience that Gen. Pace is seeking out. He will spend the next few days with family members in Germany addressing their concerns as they also cope with a 15-month deployment.

"I want to stand in front of them. I want to explain to them how it is that I came to the judgment that the troops should be extended, and allow them to ask me questions, because I think it's very important that we respect our families. I'm going to stand in front of them and explain to them our logic for what we've done and answer their questions," said Gen. Pace, "Because the fact of the matter is, the families serve this nation as well as anybody in uniform, and I want to make sure that we respect them in as many ways as possible, including standing in front of them, thanking them and answering their questions."

(Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Caldwell is currently serving with 173rd ABCT Public Affairs)