By Carrie McLeroyApril 15, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 16, 2008) --A host of Army leaders, to include the secretary of the Army, provided Texas officials a comprehensive overview of the service and its global responsibilities during a Aca,!A"fly-inAca,!A? at the Pentagon Monday.
The group, comprised mostly of Sabine River Authority board members from Texas, was in town for the National Water Resources AssociationAca,!a,,cs Federal Water Seminar. The Aca,!A"fly-in,Aca,!A? an outreach program organized by the Army Executive Partnerships office, served as an opportunity for the visitors to learn about the Army and ask candid questions of its leadership.
Throughout the day, the guests received briefings from senior leaders 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.
Aca,!A"These Aca,!Eoefly-insAca,!a,,c are a great opportunity for our leaders to tell these groups the ArmyAca,!a,,cs story,Aca,!A? said K. Stephenson, director of Executive Partnerships. Aca,!A"They read the papers and watch the news and get one side of the story, but they are also able to come here, listen to what the Army has to say, and gain a little more insight.Aca,!A?
The Army has been conducting Aca,!A"fly-ins,Aca,!A? for several years, and sees them as tools to build partnerships with local leaders and business people throughout the country, Stephenson added.
Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., director of the Army Staff, welcomed the group, and spoke with them about the, Aca,!A"stretched but not broken,Aca,!A? state of the Army. He fielded questions from the group about readiness, stress on the force and the ever-expanding roles Soldiers and their families are being asked to fill.
Aca,!A"You should be very proud of the great adaptation and agility of our Soldiers and their families at all levels,Aca,!A? Huntoon said.
He also stressed the importance of maintaining a dialogue with civic and business leaders in communities across the country.
Aca,!A"Continue to speak to us and ask questions of us, because we need to listen to the society that we serve,Aca,!A? Huntoon said. Aca,!A"Take with you what you hear today and tell people in your communities that thereAca,!a,,cs a positive story here, and when these Soldiers leave service, theyAca,!a,,cre going to be wonderful citizens.Aca,!A?
Col. Mike F. Beech, chief of strategic planning division, Directorate for the War on Terrorism, J5, The Joint Staff, briefed the SRA officials on the war on terrorism, to include the intricacies and ideological views of terrorist organizations, the changing nature of terrorism, and the successes taking place.
Aca,!A"There is a lot of learning going on, and you canAca,!a,,ct look at this as just Iraq or just Afghanistan Aca,!" the issues are much larger,Aca,!A? Beech said. Aca,!A"A whole-government approach is needed, and complete success is not attainable overnight.Aca,!A?
The board members also heard first-hand accounts about the conditions, challenges and successes on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan from Brig. Gens. John Campbell and John Nicholson, both recently redeployed from those areas.
Campbell, deputy director, Regional Operations, J3, The Joint Staff, talked about his16 months as deputy commanding general (Operations), 1st Cavalry Division and Multi- National Division-Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He highlighted the gains made in Iraq as a result of the surge, and how it helped change the dynamic of what was happening in theater.
Nicholson shared his experiences in Afghanistan, where he commanded Task Force Spartan for 16 months. He said the fight in Afghanistan is a very different fight than the one in Iraq, and spoke of the types of challenges his forces faced.
Each general said they were proud of how their Soldiers performed, but that the fight was not over.
Aca,!A"We have the best-trained, most battle-tested Army weAca,!a,,cve ever had,Aca,!A? Campbell said. Aca,!A"And (the struggles in) Iraq and Afghanistan are going to be around for a very long time. I donAca,!a,,ct think people have a good appreciation for how dangerous the world really is.Aca,!A?
The guests attended a working lunch with Secretary of the Army Pete Geren following the panel presentations. Geren candidly fielded questions from the visitors and openly discussed the challenges facing the Army, and the transformation it is undergoing to meet those challenges.
Aca,!A"This is a tough time for the Army,Aca,!A? Geren said. Aca,!A"But our Soldiers and Families are extraordinarily selfless, mission-focused folks. It is an honor to be around them, and (itAca,!a,,cs) our responsibility to take care of them.Aca,!A?
When asked about the negative publicity that has surfaced over the years, Geren said the Army needs to do a better job spotlighting the positive.
Aca,!A"That is one reason why having groups like you all here is an important part of our effort to tell the Army story,Aca,!A? Geren said. Aca,!A"You can see what quality people we have, and you all become witnesses of the things they are doing.Aca,!A?
Some of the guests had never seen a Soldier up close, and said the Program Executive Office-Soldier demonstration directly after lunch was informative.
Aca,!A"Having the Soldiers explaining what is going on and seeing them close up helps us understand more what they do,Aca,!A? said J.D. Jacobs Jr., SRA president. Aca,!A"Actually seeing them, and listening to what they have to say about things theyAca,!a,,cve done has been very enlightening.Aca,!A?
During the demonstration, the guests were able to feel the weight of the advanced combat helmet and look through the thermal weapon sight. The demonstrator, Staff Sgt. Marvin Ryals, gave the board members an overview of the gear, and answered any questions they had.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips, deputy chief of Public Affairs for the Army, afforded the Texans a final opportunity to ask questions at the end of the day.
When asked about what kind of tangible support the American public could provide, Phillips told the group to go to their state leadership and ask them for support, both vocally and financially.
Aca,!A"Our leaders are under a lot of pressure and have a huge number of responsibilities,Aca,!A? Phillips said. Aca,!A"But our Army, your Army, is important, and what they ask for is needed.Aca,!A?
He added that on a local level, they are regarded in their communities as leaders, and have the ability to influence public opinions.
Aca,!A"You have seen our Soldiers and heard about what theyAca,!a,,cre doing,Aca,!A? Phillips said. Aca,!A"Tell them itAca,!a,,cs a good thing to serve in the Army, and that these great Soldiers are worth supporting.Aca,!A?
Following the visit, the guests echoed PhillipsAca,!a,,c sentiments, and said the experience had given them a better understanding of the Army culture and its people.
Aca,!A"We have a tremendous respect for the military and what these people do,Aca,!A? said Jerry Clark, executive vice president and general manager of SRA. Aca,!A"Thank God for these young people willing to do what they do.Aca,!A?
The Pentagon will host two more Aca,!A"fly-insAca,!A? through the end of May.