By Brian Schlumbohm, Fort Wainwright PAOAugust 26, 2010
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Secretary of the Army, the Honorable John McHugh, visited Fort Wainwright Aug. 24 and 25.
Accompanied by U.S. Army Alaska Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Raymond P. Palumbo, McHugh made it his mission to meet with Soldiers of the Warrior Transition Battalion, speaking with small groups and individuals. He toured the new housing areas, learning firsthand of all the activities and the important work of the Soldiers and great support that the families have been doing. McHugh was briefed by command staff on the posts\' various units, assets, capabilities and missions.
As the Army's top civilian official, he is responsible for all matters relating to the Army such as personnel, installations, environmental issues, weapons systems and financial management.
In the last year McHugh has visited many Army posts to see firsthand the facilities and support structures that exist for the men and women in uniform.
"There's just no substitute for understanding clearly what happens at a particular facility, than actually going there and talking to the people who live it; of course, seeing the structures for our selves." said McHugh, "It's an educational initiative...one that I think at the end of the day, helps me have a better base of understanding, that hopefully will assist me in making the best possible decisions." McHugh also remarked on the importance of Fort Wainwright and how Alaska is unique geographically.
"Wainwright is a very important facility and in a very important part of the world." McHugh said. Its ability to rapidly deploy in the Pacific sets it apart from other CONUS locations the Army maintains. Alaska contains hard-to-replicate training opportunities in terrain, climate and size. He noted its importance not only in terms of climate and cold weather training, but also in the maneuverability in the large tracts of land supplying training areas.
There are challenges in being a place such as this," McHugh said,, "but it does provide unique opportunities that I think are very valuable."
Speaking on the topic of "BOG DWELL" or boots on ground in deployments and dwell time which is time Soldiers have at home, McHugh's concerns are with how the Soldiers and families are dealing with the tempo of deployments.
"Even with the plus-up in Afghanistan, we hope that it can provide us an opportunity to give the Soldiers more time at home," McHugh said, "Soldiers and their families have been enormously stressed. They have performed incredibly, but I think both morally and practicality we owe them better time at home."
His office is making an effort to provide at least 70% of the active component a two-year at-home cycle for every one year deployed. He understands that for the Soldiers and families at Fort Wainwright, it's been closer to a one-to-one ratio. McHugh made it clear that even with their efforts, there will be certain units that will be constantly called upon for deployments.
"What we've seen is overwhelming positive," McHugh said. "The men and women who put the uniform on here have done extraordinary things and we're very, very proud of them."