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'Everything' Changed in General's 38-Year Military Career

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea, Feb. 2, 2006 – "Everything" in the military has changed over Army Gen. Leon LaPorte's 38-year career, the U.S. commander in Korea said here today.

LaPorte is stepping down as commander of Combined Forces Command Korea and U.S. Forces Korea in a retirement and change-of-command ceremony here tomorrow. Army Gen. B.B. Bell will replace him.

LaPorte said he joined the military in 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War. He entered a male-dominated single society "that was not trained very well, that did not exhibit a lot of self-discipline, professionalism or high morale."

He said the force today is the mirror opposite of that military. "I say 'the military' because we have a far less parochial view of our services than we had then," he said. "We think jointness. In my job, I don't think of Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. I think of one force or set of capabilities, and I think that's what all the four-stars think today."

Today's military is a married force, and women are integral to all U.S. formations from youngest privates to general officers, LaPorte said. "That has changed the whole culture of the military," he said.

Today's military maintains high standards and is a well-trained, well-disciplined force. "The American people expect their military to have higher standards than the general populace," he said. "And our kids do it. They do it in face of tremendous personal and family sacrifice, as do our great reservists and National Guardsmen who give up their jobs to serve our nation."

The change has meant everything to LaPorte as well. "I questioned whether I wanted to stay in the military in the early 1970s," he said. "Today, if I didn't have 38 years of service I wouldn't leave, because it's such a world of difference. It's such a pleasure to be around these young men and women and be involved with them and the things they do.

"And the capabilities we have today are so far advanced and the folks are trained. I see it every day here, but you see it also in Afghanistan and Iraq - all over the world," he said. There's just no military that can compare."

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