By Secretary of the Army Pete GerenJuly 24, 2007
It really is a privilege to be here as the Secretary of the Army and to come here and visit a community that is so much a part of the fact of life of the Army. This morning I was out jogging, and I was wearing my Texas Longhorn baseball cap. It was still dark out. After what you all did to us last football season, you can only wear a Longhorn hat in the darkAca,!A|
Aca,!A|It is great to be here, I was thinking of Pat Roberts stories. I think back on my days in the Congress and I think what a great political vision you all have here in Kansas. ItAca,!a,,cs a tradition of working together, people that reach across the divides that separate Congress and separate the country, and had the privilege of working with some great members of Congress and just some great Americans. They meant so much to the life of the Congress and were so much a part of the part of Congress that made things happen. They didnAca,!a,,ct stand on the sidelines and throw rocks at the other side, but really reached across the divides. I served with Pat Roberts and I donAca,!a,,ct know if this is true or not, but they tell me this, I donAca,!a,,ct know, heAca,!a,,cs several years older than I am but he says that people see him and think that heAca,!a,,cs me. And if youAca,!a,,cre 15 years younger than someone, I donAca,!a,,ct think thatAca,!a,,cs a compliment. Jim SlatteryAca,!a,,cs a good friend and Dan Whitman and Sam Brownback, IAca,!a,,cve gotten to know Nancy Boyda. In fact, I was at a prayer breakfast with her when she first came to Congress. I had not gotten to know her well but I have had several conversations with her. I donAca,!a,,ct know her as well as I do her predecessors.
But these are great House members and Senators. ItAca,!a,,cs just the spirit of Kansas, itAca,!a,,cs a people who do things and people working together and people who serve. ItAca,!a,,cs the same kind of spirit that I see here in this community the way you all work together and support your Army, and work together to support whatAca,!a,,cs good for the community. Last night I had the chance to talk to a lot of Soldiers and a lot of spouses, and everybody I talked to said this was the greatest place IAca,!a,,cve ever been stationed, this is the best community. These people love the Army, these people love Soldiers and these people love the Army. The most important message I wanted to deliver to you all is thank you for that commitment to our Army, our Soldiers and particularly at this time in our nationAca,!a,,cs history. From what I hear from them, there could not be more that you do. IAca,!a,,cd like you to give yourselves a big round of applause.
IAca,!a,,cm going to talk today, I want to talk about Fort Riley and the future of Fort Riley, talk a little about BRAC, talk about the National Guard and talk about, because you know as well as I do, the importance of families in our Army. You all were big winners under BRAC and over the next several years this community is going to grow. ItAca,!a,,cs going to grow with more Soldiers, itAca,!a,,cs going to grow with more family members, and itAca,!a,,cs going to go through several more constructions. And thatAca,!a,,cs a tribute the work you all did as part of BRAC because of the GovernorAca,!a,,cs Task Force and the NominationAca,!a,,cs Task Force, working for Fort Riley. But itAca,!a,,cs also a tribute to the strong military value and great legacy and tradition at Fort Riley. Fort Riley, with its history back to 1852, is older than the state I was reminding you of this morning, and the movement of Congress along the Oregon and Santa Fe trailsAca,!A|.in an earlier version of BRAC, Fort Riley survived and then it was recommended that Congress save Fort Riley and make it the Cavalry headquarters for the United States Army. And thus began the great long tradition of Fort Riley and the United States Cavalry.
The post has had a significant history every since it became the home of the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry and of course the Cavalry school. This morning during my jog I stopped and peered through the windows of the museum and IAca,!a,,cll have to go by there today, it looks like a remarkable place. Hundreds of thousands of Soldiers are trained at Fort Riley over the years for service in World War I, World War II and Korea. The Big Red One, 1st Infantry Division arrived in 1955, brining its own distinguished history beginning in 1917 in France under Blackjack Pershing. Of course you know the history as well as I, if not better. The 1st ID has led the fight ever since. In North Africa, Sicily, in Normandy, in Germany during the Cold War, in Vietnam. The division was deployed in Bosnia, Pasadena, Kosovo and now Iraq. The Big Red One has gone wherever our country has called them to go. Strong community support with this battle Army post and essential fighting force have made Fort Riley what it is today. Fort Riley, the 1st Infantry Division and the other active and National Guard units located in Kansas are important parts of the ArmyAca,!a,,cs past and are going to be important parts of the ArmyAca,!a,,cs future.
This is a challenging time for our Army. How many times in our history have we asked more of our Soldiers and their families than we are right now' WeAca,!a,,cre asking a great deal from our Soldiers who are fighting wars in two places on the other side of the world. Fort Riley currently has 6,700 troops deployed in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Since the beginning of both operations, Fort Riley has deployed over 21,000 Soldiers. And this community has supported those families while those Soldiers were gone. Our Soldiers and their families are now experiencing multiple tours, which were once 12 months, and as you all know itAca,!a,,cs now 15. 117 Soldiers from Fort Riley have paid the ultimate price for our nation. Kansas has shouldered a heavy burden for our nation with Active, Guard and Reserve. In addition to KansasAca,!a,,c active duty deployments, Kansas National Guard troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the U.S. Border Control in Jibuti and Bosnia and Kosovo. Your Army, this Administration, we are modernizing the National Guard, increasing the equipment levels to meet military and civil support missions. For Fiscal Years 05 to 13 the Army has budgeted an unprecedented $37 billion for National Guard equipment. This is a historic level. We are recognizing the many obligations the Guard has today, and that fundamentally the Guard is no longer a part of the strategic reserve, the Guard is part of the operational force. WeAca,!a,,cve gone back to the Guard over and over and over the last several years. And we must make it the best Guard for its missions and responsibilities its shouldering for our nation. The PresidentAca,!a,,cs budget requests for FY08 includes $3.7 billion for equipment for the Guard this year. Sixty-five percent of the line of trucks we procure over the next several years are going to the Guard. And the National Guard Aviation will have its full authorization of Blackhawk helicopters by 2010. Overall the Army continues to address shortfalls in equipment and infrastructure that have accumulated over many years. We made, by downsizing the size of our active duty in the early 90Aca,!a,,cs, we made Guard and Reserve 55 percent of our total military capabilities. We made it impossible to go to war without them, and yet in the 90s we did not make the investments into the Guard and Reserve that we needed to do. General Schoomaker, former Chief of Staff, described it in his Western way as we dug holes in the yard over the last several years and the 90s, and we are committed as an Army to fill those holes at least with equipment and investments.
As you know, the all-volunteer force that protects us today is a national treasure. The families should get substantial credit as well. This is the first time since the Revolutionary War that weAca,!a,,cve fought this great of a conflict with an all-volunteer force. Our Soldiers, Active, National Guard and Reserve, are volunteers. Their families are volunteers. Community support is critical for the help of that all-volunteer force.
As an Army, the new Chief of Staff and I as a task force and a commitment to that task force need to step up and do a better job of meeting the needs of the families. We recently moved $100 million in a new initiative to support the Family Support Services in our force around the country. The impact on Fort Riley includes the hiring of an additional 24 family readiness support assistance, one for each battalion. Additionally, the funds will help reduce fees for Child and Youth Services and also help expand child care services here. But thereAca,!a,,cs no substitute for community support. Neighbors helping neighbors. To sustain the all-volunteer force, that national treasure, means taking care of families.
An Army spouse, who happens to be a wife and mother, recently said that holding a family together for one deployment is hard, holding together a family for two deployments is harder, and holding a family together for three deployments is harder still, yet these families are stepping up and carrying that burden for the rest of the nation. And theyAca,!a,,cre doing it with the help of neighbors such as you. General Casey and I have made our top priority is making sure we as an Army are taking care of our Soldiers and their families. The entire Army leadership is committed to ensuring our Army families are enjoying a quality of life and has all the services. That means in the area of housing, education, health care, child careAca,!"stepping up and ensuring care for those families who shoulder the burden for our nation. We share the commitment to our Army families that you demonstrate in your communities here.
ItAca,!a,,cs a special American who volunteers for the Army in a time of war. ItAca,!a,,cs a special American who reenlists in the Army during a time of war. And itAca,!a,,cs a special family that stands with those Soldiers. I want to thank all of you for the great support you give those families and you give those Soldiers. We will be successful in growing and sustaining an Army for the future but it will take the recognition of all of us as Americans that itAca,!a,,cs not a job just for the Army. ItAca,!a,,cs a job for every one of us as Americans.
We have the best led, best trained, best equipped force weAca,!a,,cve ever put in the field in the history of our nation. We owe it to our Soldiers and those families that five years from now, 10 years from now or 20 years from now, we can still say the same thing. In order to do that, as a nation, we must step up to the challenge and stand with our Soldiers and stand with those families. We must make investments in our future. We donAca,!a,,ct ever want to put our Soldiers in an unfair fight. The decisions that we make today determine what kind of Army we have 10 years from now. ItAca,!a,,cs a big organization, 1.3 million people; you canAca,!a,,ct turn it on a dime. What we do now will shape what the Army looks like 20 years from now. What we donAca,!a,,ct do now will shape what the Army looks like 20 years from now.
One of my sisters-in-law has a sign in her kitchen that says Aca,!A"life is uncertain, eat dessert first.Aca,!A? When you try to predict the future that lies over the horizon for our nation, IAca,!a,,cm reminded of something Secretary Rumsfeld used to talk about. He said when he was confirmed as the Secretary of Defense, he was never asked about Afghanistan. When Dick Cheney was confirmed as Secretary of Defense, he was never asked about Iraq. When Robert McNamara was confirmed as Secretary of Defense, he was never asked about Vietnam. The only thing we know for certain is that whatever happens next is going to be a surprise. And the only way to be ready for what happens next is to continue to invest in our military and continue to invest in our Army, continue to stand for the Soldiers and make the kind of investments in modernization and the future of the Army that are critical to ensure that those Soldiers have a future and those families have a future. Ensure they have the equipment they need, they have the leaders they need and have the support they need.
With our work, and working with you, IAca,!a,,cm confident that weAca,!a,,cre going to build a great future for this Army. Again, let me thank you for what you do for our Soldiers and what you do for families. IAca,!a,,cm repeating myself, but IAca,!a,,cve traveled around and talked to Soldiers at other places and almost anyplace you go they talk about what the communities do for the Soldiers and their families, but IAca,!a,,cve never heard a place like this where every Soldier IAca,!a,,cve talked to said these communities around Fort Riley, they love Soldiers and they love SoldiersAca,!a,,c families. So thank you for that and thank you for that affection for our force. And thank you all for listening to me this morning and coming out and joining me for breakfast. Thanks a lot.