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Pace Encourages Military Service, Notes Pride Among Troops

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2006 – Military service is "very, very satisfying," and today's servicemembers recognize the critical role they are playing in the country's defense, the top U.S. military officer told Pentagon reporters today.

Following a weeklong trip throughout the Persian Gulf region and to Germany, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he was impressed by the "incredibly high morale" among deployed troops and their confidence in the mission they are carrying out.

"They felt good about what they are doing and knew they are making a difference," he said after meeting with about 12,000 troops in Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Djibouti, aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt, and at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

They have a lot to be proud of with accomplishments made in 2005 in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world," he said. "No matter what we've asked our young folks to do, they have done superbly and made us proud.

"I was proud and pleased to be their chairman."

Pace said he sensed a "quiet confidence" among the U.S. troops and foreign leaders he met with in how the war on terror is proceeding. They have "an understanding of the process, an understanding of the way ahead, and a feeling of confidence that if we collectively stay with it, we're going to be okay," he said.

The general said he's impressed by the caliber of the force and took issue with assertions that the Army is broken.

"The U.S. Army is well-trained," he asserted. "It's the best-trained Army in the world. It has never been better trained, and we will continue to make sure that it stays well-trained."

Asked to respond to a U.S. congressman and retired Marine's recent comments that he would not join the military today, Pace called such comments "damaging" to the force. "It's "damaging to recruiting; it's damaging to the morale of the troops who are deployed; and it's damaging to the morale of their families who believe in what they're doing to serve this country," he said.

And such comments are damaging to the United States if they dissuade young people from joining the military, Pace said.

"We have almost 300 million Americans who are being protected by 2.4 (million) volunteer active, Guard and Reserve members, (and) we must recruit to that force," he said.

Pace said 18- and 19-year-olds "can get the wrong message" about the military when they hear respected leaders discourage military service.

"We have an all-volunteer, all-recruited United States armed forces," he said. "I believe that all young people should have the opportunity to service their country in whatever way they see fit, and that those who elect to serve in the armed forces should be encouraged to do so -- especially when we're in a war where our enemy has (the) stated intention of destroying our way of life."

The chairman said he takes advantage of every forum he addresses to encourage young people to consider military service and their mentors to encourage that decision-making process.

"Dedicating a part of your life to the service of this country is an honorable thing to do," he said.

Pace said he encourages adult mentors who young people look up to for guidance to encourage them "to consider service to this country with an understanding that it's a very, very satisfying way to spend a portion, if not all, of your adult life."

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Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

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