By Chuck Roberts November 26, 2012
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov. 26, 2012) -- Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal, Ph.D., visited with service members in both Germany and Afghanistan.
Both Westphal and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III spent time with troops at the Warrior Recovery Center in Kandahar during their Thanksgiving Day visit in Afghanistan, Nov. 22.
The two Army leaders were shown the features of the center, and sat behind the camera and computer terminal of a tele-behavioral health machine.
While in Afghanistan, both Westphal and Austin shared a holiday meal with Soldiers.
Following the Afghanistan trip, both Westphal and Austin visited Soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. While in Germany, Westphal reflected on his trip to Afghanistan. He said Soldiers in Afghanistan are facing the critical task of training Afghanistan forces in preparation for the 2014 withdrawal of NATO forces.
The transition, he said, is going well.
"I think morale is high because they are seeing huge results as they turn over the mission to an Afghan army that is large and well equipped," said Westphal, during a Nov. 23 interview with American Forces Network.
The work of American Soldiers in Afghanistan also includes working alongside an Afghan police force that Westphal said is probably the strongest link in fighting the Taliban.
On a similar note, Westphal addressed the transformation of U.S. Army in Europe as part of the overall reduction of military forces. Although the Army presence in Europe is growing smaller, Westphal said Europe remains an important and critical ally and that the U.S. is unquestionably linked to its NATO partners.
The undersecretary said he does not foresee further reduction in forces for the Army unless necessitated by significant future budget cuts. The reduction of forces in Europe comes as the Army plans to increase its role in the Pacific, a region where Westphal said the Army is already well-situated. Today, the Army has Soldiers in Hawaii, Korea and Japan. U.S. Pacific Command is not new to the Army, but its mission will include strategic changes among U.S. forces and allies.
One thing that never changes is the Army's commitment in taking care of its wounded warriors, Westphal said.
When asked about the prioritization of medical care for Wounded Warriors as the Army faces budget constraints and possible sequestration, Westphal said that commitment "is a priority -- not a negotiated priority, a wound to a Soldier is a wound to the Army. A wound to the Army is a wound to the nation. We'll never compromise our care for our wounded warriors."
Westphal said he always makes a stop at LRMC when in Europe because "it's so important to connect with Wounded Warriors no matter where you are in the world."
Westphal also praised the continuum of military medical care from combat zones, to LRMC, to long-term definitive care at stateside hospitals, such as Walter Reed.
"It's miraculous for us to see how effective this process is," Westphal said. "Soldiers deserve such care because of what they are doing for Americans now, and have been doing for more than 237 years."