By Denver Beaulieu-Hains, Joint Multinational Training CommandNovember 18, 2011
HOHENFELS, Germany -- All his adult life, he's been a Soldier and he doesn't care who knows it. That's why he makes it a point to educate Congress and the public on the merits of America's land force. His career started in 1959, and the Army has been his passion ever since, and retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the president and chief operating officer of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) and the 32nd Chief of Staff of the Army observed Kosovo Force training on November 16 in Europe, after mentoring Noncommissioned Officers and Officers at leadership development discussions on Grafenwoehr and the Hohenfels Training Area.
The AUSA is a private, non-profit educational organization that supports all components of the Army -- Active, Guard and Reserve. Since the 1950's, AUSA's charter is to educate the American public at the grass-roots level and on Capitol Hill.
He imparted history, insights, and offered praise for the enduring commitment of today's Soldiers and families. He talked about the importance of teamwork.
"We've got to get out of this fight, and here's how you're going to do it -- with the team you have," he said. "It's not the team you might have. It's the team you've got that counts. You have to turn the advantages they bring into accomplishments on the battlefield."
After the presentation in more candid discussion, Sullivan answered questions about retirement and pension.
He talked about letters he wrote to the President and other government officials on the topic.
The letters to the editor are posted on www.ausa.org, the AUSA's official Web site. Sullivan wrote "long-term military service requires extraordinary sacrifice by those serving and their families over two to three decades -- in essence, service members write a blank check to the United States for an amount up to and including their life. Our government imposes no limits on the sacrifices of those who serve a career in uniform - less than one-percent of our population - and in turn must provide a substantial and predictable compensation package."
During the professional development session, he affirmed, "What you [Soldiers] are asked to do and what you do and the sacrifices you make transcend all of that," he said. "We can afford retirement, if we choose to do so, but we can't walk away from those who have been fighting now for ten years cavalierly because we've got to save money."
He said, upcoming decisions would likely grandfather current Soldiers and not affect those who are currently serving on active duty.
When asked about the force structure in Europe, Sullivan said the message to Congress is that the U.S. Army in Europe is not only necessary, it's essential.
"The message is we have National Guard units from the United States training alongside other armies who will be participating with them down in the Balkans in Kosovo, that's huge! You can't get that in the United States."
Europe's Joint Multinational Training Command regularly trains U.S. and multinational forces for missions and contingencies around the world. Sullivan watched as the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, a unit comprised of Soldiers of 13 U.S. states trained with the multinational forces from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, and Slovenia.
"You can't replicate that in the United States," Sullivan said. "Many of these countries like Poland, Romania and Bulgaria can't afford to send their Soldiers to the United States to do it."
The value of having a forward-based combat training center exceeds the costs, said Sullivan.
"The value transcends the dollars. This is a transcendent experience here because it's optimizing the human potential from other nations, Sullivan said. "The United States is an important member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). "The U.S. Army commitment and the U.S. national commitment as it is manifested here at this training center [JMRC] is a part of that commitment," he said.
Sullivan pointed-out that the Soldiers could look around, and sees success right here in their own backyard.
"A lot of those countries that were killing each other are here right now training here right now.