WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 25, 2012) -- "The greatest asset of the United States Army aren't our tanks or our helicopters or our sophisticated weapon systems. They are our people. You are what make ours the best and most powerful military in the world," said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III.
The general, who was speaking at AUSA's Sergeant Major of the Army's NCO and Soldier of the Year Awards Luncheon said that over the last 11 years he's witnessed Soldiers' determination, remarkable courage and winning attitude firsthand during multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I have seen you do the most amazing things, seemingly impossible things," he said, "and, I have seen you do them routinely."
Austin recalled a "particularly difficult day," June 6, 2011, when terrorists attacked a forward operating base near Sadr City, Iraq, just before dawn. The attack resulted in the deaths of six Soldiers and injuries to many others, as well as an almost complete destruction of the FOB.
There was a great amount of damage, chaos and confusion, he said, "but, even more remarkable than the attack itself was the response by the leaders and the Soldiers of that unit. Every one of them was a hero that day."
Austin said when he learned of the attack that morning, he immediately flew out there from his headquarters. "When we got there I walked over to the battalion commander, recognizing that he and his unit had just gone through something incredibly traumatic," he said. "But the commander was very much in control and very confident."
"I told him, "These are my Soldiers too. And, we are going to bring the power of the United States military to bear on your location. And, we did."
Austin went on to explain that within a matter of hours, the engineers, along with dozens of contractors and even some Navy Seabees, were on site helping to rebuild that camp. "Within just a few days, those Soldiers had better fortified positions, and they had replacement housing units, new weapons, body armor, uniforms and all types of supplies."
Austin said it was incredible watching the Soldiers come together and emerge from the tragedy "stronger and more confident and more capable than ever before."
He said Soldiers of that unit, 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, "truly lived up to the unit's motto, which is: 'Never Broken by Hardship or Battle.'"
Austin emphasized that what occurred that day was not exceptional and that that type of teamwork has occurred routinely over the last 11 years.
"In everything that we've done we've supported one another. And, that is what it means to be a part of a team and this is indeed a great team. No matter how long we've been fighting, no matter what happens, we have always done and will always do what is necessary to support one another and to ensure the team's success. "
Austin also stressed that while Soldiers continue to fight in Afghanistan, their families back home and the American people are providing outstanding support for them. He said that he wished Soldiers and their families could take a well-deserved rest, but that they would have to remain ready and resilient in the face of an "incredibly complex and volatile" world.
Despite these challenging commitments, Austin said the Army and the nation must and will do everything possible to care for our Soldiers, Wounded Warriors, Veterans and their families.
Regarding the wounded warriors, he said that not all injuries are physical. "It's not just about the obvious wounds and injuries, like amputations and burns," he said. "Equally serious are the less apparent conditions of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress and depression and other similar ailments. So, we have to change the mindset among our leaders and Soldiers and get folks to understand that … asking for, and receiving help, is a sign of strength!"