Leaders Need to Keep Troops Focused, Senior Enlisted Advisor Says
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 21, 2006 The war on terrorism will be a long fight, and leaders need to keep their troops focused, the U.S. military’s senior enlisted member said here today.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey (left), senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to senior enlisted servicemembers at Camp Eggers, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 21. Army Sgt.
Maj. Thomas Gills, senior enlisted leader for Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, looks on. Photo by Tech. Sgt.
Christopher DeWitt, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace, arrived here this evening to visit troops during Thanksgiving week. In a dining facility decorated for Thanksgiving, he spoke to about 20 senior noncommissioned officers from all services during a brief dinner meeting at Camp Eggers here.
“We will not lose the war in Afghanistan or Iraq; we’ll lose it in the United States” because of lack of support for the mission, he said. “Anyone who knows anything about insurgency knows they have lasting power, … so we have to stay safe and keep our young men and women focused.”
A main focus of Gainey’s is on the effectiveness of the joint force. He constantly works to help enlisted members in all services see the benefits of working together.
During his remarks, Gainey related a conversation he had with a senior NCO who commented that the Navy isn’t “in the fight.” The sergeant major said he told the individual to think about the Navy corpsmen who accompany every Marine combat mission and sailors who serve six months at a stretch providing security on 1-kilometer-by-500-meter oil platforms in the Persian Gulf. “I told this individual, ‘I think the one that’s not doing his part is you, because you’re not caring enough about your sister services to understand what they’re doing,’” Gainey said.
He urged senior leaders to “slide those blinders off and look to the left and right” to see what other services are doing and learn from each other.
“Don’t give up your service culture,” he said, “but this is about all of us together, not you as an individual.”
Gainey also brought a message from Pace, the military’s top officer. “General Pace wanted me to tell you all that he’s really proud of what you’re doing and continue doing it and stay focused,” Gainey said.
The sergeant major took several questions on differences in deployment lengths among the services. He explained that he believes the services need to set their own deployment lengths. “That’s what our (service chiefs) say they need to be effective,” he said.
In response to another question, Gainey said he believes the services can do a better job matching up individual unit augmentees with specific skill sets needed for each position so fewer servicemembers end up working outside their specialty areas.
But he also had advice for servicemembers who find themselves working in jobs they’re not used to. “Be the best you are at what you’re doing, and let your leaders evaluate you on what you’re doing,” Gainey said.
Gainey said he understands the concerns of an Army National Guardsman who noted that Guard and reserve troops spend about 18 months away from home when they’re called upon to deploy for 12 months to Iraq or Afghanistan. They spend five to six months away from home to train prior to deployment, then deploy for a year, then spend two weeks to a month demobilizing. “A lot of us don’t understand that our year is their 18 months,” Gainey said.
The soldier who asked the question advocated nine-month deployments for Guard and reserve servicemembers.
Gainey said leaders understand this problem and are working on ways to shorten the mobilization and demobilization process by streamlining training or performing some training in units’ home state so troops can spend more time at home before deploying.
He concluded his remarks with some advice for leaders to pass to their troops. “Stay focused, and remember that professionalism is not a part-time job. You have to be professional about what you do 24-7,” Gainey said. “One (mistake) can cause an international incident.”
He urged leaders to tell their forces to be careful about what they say around local citizens because many people understand English. One wrong remark overheard by the wrong person “can set the mission back tenfold,” he said.