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Soldiers Must Be Adaptive for Future, Army Chief Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2006 – The nature of the threat facing the U.S. military has changed drastically, and soldiers need to grow and become more flexible to face that threat, the Army chief of staff said here Feb. 17.

In an interview with the Pentagon Channel, Army Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said the Army now faces an asymmetrical threat, so soldiers must be prepared to perform many different functions, ranging from high-end combat and untraditional warfare to stability operations and homeland defense.

"We now must cover a broader piece of the entire spectrum of operations, and because we have a force that is going to face challenges that will be dynamic and will move across the various challenges on the spectrum, we'll need people that are learning and adaptive," Schoomaker said.

This new breed of soldier, which Schoomaker dubbed the "pentathlete," will be skilled in his specific field but also be able to perform other functions, in case a need arises on the battlefield, he said.

"It's about having very athletic people in very athletic organizations -- people that can play multiple positions, that aren't defined very narrowly by a specific military occupational specialty," he said.

Being an all-volunteer force that retains most of its people, the Army has a vested interest in developing its soldiers to their highest capacity, Schoomaker said. As soldiers become more experienced at their craft, the force becomes more professional and expectations must be raised, he said.

"We can't act like we used to act and expect too little from the great talent we've got in our force," he said. "People will rise to the challenges that we place before them, and we expect that of our soldiers -- for them to be masters of their primary skills, to be very good at other skills, and to grow every day and adapt."

Soldiers are the centerpiece of the Army, and they need to realize that what they are involved in right now is very important and will have lasting effects, Schoomaker said. The Army is undergoing its largest transformation in 50 years, he said, and it must endure through the growing pains to become a force that is more prepared to fight the long war on terror.

"It's an exciting time to be in the Army, and it is a time of extraordinary transformation," he said.

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Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, USA

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