WASHINGTON, August 4, 2014 —
Building personal relationships -- whether with lawmakers, with state governors or with political and military leaders of nations engaged in the war on terror -- is just as important, sometimes even more so, as the ability to project force, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John F. Campbell said Aug. 1.
Campbell spoke during a farewell media roundtable at the Pentagon. He departs for Afghanistan later this month as the next International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan commander.
As the drawdown continues, the process of notifying soldiers that they will be involuntarily separated will be done through the chain of command with dignity and respect, he said. The Army considers those leaving, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, to be "soldiers for life," he added.
That's why "we've got to do this right," Campbell said.
While building these soldier-to-soldier relationships up and down the chain of command during the drawdown is important, it's also critical to establish rapport with legislators. He, along with Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, have been candid with lawmakers regarding the deleterious effects continued sequestration will have on readiness and the Army's ability to carry out national security objectives, he noted.
Besides senior leader visits to Capitol Hill, the Army has been sending teams of soldiers, including personnel from the National Guard, to meet with governors to discuss the Army's Aviation Restructuring Initiative. ARI is the plan to swap National Guard Apache helicopters for active Black Hawks, a move the Army says will save money and increase overall readiness.
"We've sent teams … to talk to some 25 to 30 governors about ARI, above and beyond the nine states that have Apaches, and asked them the question, 'Governor, what do we have to do to convince you or the people in your state that the Black Hawk or Chinook is much better for your state mission than an Apache?'" Campbell said.
While the Army wants the Guard to remain an operational reserve component, the effects of the budget and drawdown "just don't allow that to happen," he added. "We're going from 13 active combat aviation brigades to 10."
As Campbell prepares to go to Afghanistan, he said, he's been getting intelligence briefings, and earlier this year, he made a full circuit through the country, meeting with commanders on the ground to get their feedback.
That person-to-person relationship with his commanders will continue when he returns to Afghanistan this month for his third tour of duty there, the general said. Since the effort is international, he’ll also be meeting with NATO and regional leaders, he added.
The importance of personal relationships during this period of transition in Afghanistan where the United States is drawing down and the Afghans are stepping up to the fight is critical, he said, adding that the insurgents cross back and forth along the porous Afghan-Pakistan border so the discussions and efforts to root them out is important to the leaders and people of both countries.
Pakistan and Afghanistan need to remove the terror "that threatens their people and their way of life," Campbell said. The conversation, he added, should be, "This is what they're doing to civilians. This is how bad it is. Let's work together to figure out solutions. What we'll try to do is continue to work this [military-to-military] relationship."
Campbell commended Pakistan for its recent operation in Waziristan and he said he hopes efforts like those will continue. He also said he hopes there will be an agreement that allows U.S. and NATO forces to stay in Afghanistan until the country becomes more stable. "Ninety-nine percent of the Afghans want us to stay," he said.
Finally, Campbell provided an example of how relationships matter. While serving as the commander of Regional Command East in Afghanistan in 2010, he said, he visited the 11th Corps commander in Pakistan, a lieutenant general who was a 2006 graduate of the National Defense University here.
The general also knew others who'd graduated from NDU, Campbell said, which helped to build a personal relationship with him right from the outset.
"That means if we have something going on, on the border, I can get on the phone and call him up,” he said. “It helped immensely, and I think we've got to continue working on relationships like those."