JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Joseph W. Westphal, under secretary of the U.S. Army, and Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, paid a visit to servicemembers Dec. 5, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq (JBB).

The distinguished visitors made the trip to speak with servicemembers about a number of issues, including their perspectives on troops welfare in the deployment/redeployment processes, along with discussing with troops about their role in Operation New Dawn.

Upon their arrival, Westphal and Chiarelli first stopped at the Oasis dining facility at JBB for breakfast with senior leaders, during which they spoke with the leadership about issues regarding those who are deployed. Special emphasis was given to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the alarming suicide rates among servicemembers.

These have been of great concern to Chiarelli specifically, and he has made it his priority to address the issues in order to improve servicemembers' physical and mental well-being during and after deployments.

"It's going to take the leaders giving a little tough love to ensure we are taking the time necessary [during redeployment processes] to get the Soldiers the care they need," said Chiarelli during the breakfast. Much of the discussion revolved around lengthening the demobilization process that units must complete prior to going home to ensure that physical or behavioral calls for help do not go unnoticed.

Westphal also spoke of refining the demobilization processes to accommodate for servicemembers' overall welfare, paying special attention to Reservists' needs for a strict deployment timeline that makes changing from servicemember back to civilian an easier transition.

"We are committed to the operability of the Reserve Component," he said. "We can't do it without you, and we understand that you need predictability."

Following the breakfast, Westphal and Chiarelli toured the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) headquarters and two of the unit's subordinate units, the 14th Transportation Battalion headquarters and the 3rd Sustainment Brigade headquarters. During the brief tours, Westphal and Chiarelli met severalservice members and spoke with them about their role in operations here.

"We have been talking about planning this trip because we wanted to see what we are a part of affecting every day," said Westphal.

At each stop, the distinguished visitors received detailed briefs about each unit's complex role in the responsible drawdown of forces and equipment from Iraq. Both Westphal and Chiarelli awarded several servicemembers coins in recognition of excellence they've shown in their profession.

Prior to their departure, Westphal and Chiarelli shared lunch with a large group of servicemembers from the units they visited. Despite their short visit and tight schedule, they met with each servicemember in attendance at every stop on their tour, and gained a unique and up-close perspective on current operations in Iraq.