By Carrie McLeroyApril 5, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 4, 2008) - A group of senior army officials met with members of the Chicago World President's Organization and their spouses Thursday, to paint a picture of the Army and its role in the global environment.
The WPO members, all current or former chief executive officers, aged 50 and older, of major business enterprises in the Chicago area, came to the Pentagon on what is known as a "fly-in," where business and community leaders are afforded the opportunity to learn about the Army and ask candid questions of its leadership, according to representatives from the Army Executive Partnerships office, Headquarters, Department of the Army.
The group dined with the Army's chief of staff, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Wednesday night, as well as Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston Thursday morning. The business leaders also viewed a variety of presentations to include a Program Executive Office Soldier demonstration that highlighted some of the Army's emerging and evolving technologies.
The Army has been conducting "fly-ins" for several years, and sees them as tools to build partnerships with local leaders and business people throughout the country, according to K. Stephenson, director of Executive Partnerships at Department of the Army.
Throughout the day Thursday, the visitors received briefings from various levels of Army leadership on the current state of the Army, its role in the war on terrorism, the challenges it faces and how America can support its servicemen and women.
Col. (P) Gary Cheek, deputy director of strategy, plans and policy, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7, provided the businessmen and their wives an overview of the Army's involvement in the war on terrorism on every front.
"Many Americans believe there is no strategy for the war," he said. "I'm here to show you that's not the case."
Cheek spoke about building relationships with countries, both in the family of nations and the regions around Afghanistan and Iraq, and frankly answered questions from the WPO on a multitude of subjects, from current operations to defeat violent extremism to the physical and cultural terrains of those operations.
Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, presented the listeners with another challenge being faced on the ground in theater - IEDs. He spoke of measures being taken to prevent their emplacement, and how to attack the enemy's vulnerabilities. Metz also answered questions about how to lessen the impact of IEDs on coalition forces. "We are in a tough fight, and there is no silver bullet," he added.
The outreach program's, "Boots on the Ground," panel, made up of three officers recently redeployed from Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, spoke to the group about their experiences while in theater. Lt. Cols. Frank Sturek, Sheila Denham and Robert Taradash reflected on their time spent in Iraq and Afghanistan and shared the successes and challenges they and their Soldiers faced.
Clark Fetridge, managing partner of Ravenswood Advisors Consulting Company, expressed his appreciation for what servicemembers like Sturek, Denham and Taradash do, and asked how businessman like himself could communicate to the public the good work the Army is doing.
"Just support our vets, hire a vet, accept vets into your ranks," Taradash said. "Not just for their service, but for the skills they bring to your organizations. And be vocal about your support whenever you have the opportunity."
The WPO members also attended an informal working lunch with Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., director of the Army Staff, to discuss current issues and how those issues relate to Americans.
"We are a mirror of society, and I think that is often forgotten," Huntoon said. "We experience the same social ills as our civilian counterparts, and the Army is doing a much better job now than we ever have before of remedying those ills."
Huntoon also noted the importance of men and women like those representing the World Presidents' Organization, and the role they play in telling the Army's story.
"The commitment from the nation has been questionable at times," Huntoon said. "That is why it is so important for you to listen to what is said here and go back to your communities and convey what you've learned."
The general also spoke about the Army's continued efforts to provide the best and most complete support to Soldiers and their families through programs like the Army Family Covenant and the Army Community Covenant. "We've always been very conservative as an Army in asking for assistance, and have not reached out in the past to community service-type groups near our installations. Now, through the Army Community Covenant, we will be trying to access those groups."
Members of the organization said the speakers effectively communicated the continuing evolution of the armed services, not just during war, but also through social programs, expanding infrastructure, and improving how it educates its men and women. The business leaders also recognized how the Army is working to constantly update and improve how it operates in order to face future challenges.
"What is going on today is not just a conflict in Iraq or in Afghanistan, it is emblematic of a new reality," said George Colis, chairman of the board for Oxford Bank and Trust. "It is important for people to understand that and recognize that these situations are going to require long-term reactions."
The Army Executive Partnerships Office will host three more "fly-ins" at the Pentagon through the end of May.