By Staff Sgt. Derek M. SmithJune 18, 2012
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, visited the command and Soldiers of the 411th Engineer Brigade, Joint Task Force Empire, here June 8.
This was Bostick's first visit to units in Afghanistan since he became the 53rd U.S. Army Chief of Engineers and commanding general of USACE May 22. He serves as the senior military officer overseeing most of the nation's civil works infrastructure and military construction.
Bostick received operational briefs from command staff and spoke with Soldiers on issues concerning engineers specifically and the state of the Army in general. He stressed the importance of working in a deployed environment, each soldier's role in Afghanistan and as "ambassadors of the Army."
"You have to work as a team," Bostick advised. "There's no experience like the forward [deployed] experience. The experience you have here will carry you through the rest of your lives."
Bostick said he spoke with military commanders in Afghanistan about the vital role of military engineers play in operations. He said he was impressed by the amount of knowledge and interest command maintained concerning engineer missions.
"They really know what you're doing," Bostick explained. "You're in the day --to-day fight supporting commanders. They deeply value the engineer assets.
"Make sure your priorities are in line with their priorities," he advised. "Show them how we help support the mission."
Bostick emphasized not all concerns were operational in nature.
"I spend a lot of my time in guard and reserve issues," he explained. "We are very good with the operationalization of the Guard and Reserves. We're not very good at the health of the force. The Army knows that. The nation knows that. We have to fix it"
Bostick expressed a growing concern with the care for soldiers and Veterans on the homefront. He remains involved in the restructuring of soldier care and said many states were lacking in standardized care. The Department of Defense's solution started with choosing a hospital in Georgia as its basis for standardizing care.
"We found out where we thought the standard should be," Bostick pointed out. The process here became the seed which expanded to six more locations. The ultimate goal is to take the final standard for care and return it the states to effectively control.
Bostick addressed the persistent dangers of harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault. He implored all soldiers to hold a high standard and maintain a zero tolerance on these issues.
"It's not good order and discipline," Bostick said of harassment. "It's not treating people with dignity and respect. We've got to get back to basics on how we treat each other. The way you win in this environment is with good teams. It's something you have to work on every day."
Another concern Bostick addressed was the unemployment rate of reserve-component Soldiers.
"We are facing an economic situation like no other," said Bostick. "We have a huge issue with unemployment. Unemployment of young soldiers [20 to 24 years of age] is higher than any other category. It's about 30%. It's about half that in the civilian population."
Bostick encouraged soldiers to use resources available to them through the military, including job fairs in which employers hire veterans and service members on site.
Bostick concluded his visit with the JTF Empire engineers by thanking them for their service, encouraging them to take advantage of their deployment and of assets available to them upon their return home.
"You have a great organization and a great mission," Bostick smiled. "I wish I could be with you and I'm proud of you."