Myers Praises Troops at Front Lines of War on Terrorism
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 11, 2003 Two years after terrorist attacks thrust the United States into a war on terrorism worldwide, the military's top officer said today the Pentagon needs to make deployments and tour lengths more predictable for the men and women at the front lines of that war.
"We haven't done a perfect job of this, and the families out there know that," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers told American Forces Radio and Television Service at the Pentagon. "In some cases, we've done very well, in some cases not so well," he said. "Our record is uneven, and we need to do better. And we will do better."
Myers' assessment, on the second anniversary of 9-11, came just days after thousands of Army National Guard and Reserve troops deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom learned that they could potentially remain in the theater for up to 12 months. Army officials emphasized that although the policy is not new, some members of the reserve components had misunderstood it, believing that their one-year tours of duty would include train-up and redeployment time in the states.
"We want to tell people when they are going to be called up if they're in the reserves so they can work with their employers, work with their families, and get their situation squared away so they can go serve," Myers told AFRTS.
While noting the need to add predictability to service members' lives, Myers emphasized the importance of their contributions "at this turning point in our history." He said the nation faces "a very, very dangerous threat that wants to do away with our way of life."
"The recent bin Laden tape affirms that what they really want to do is reduce America to a shadow of its former self, or worse, and take with it the rest of the free world," Myers said. "And that's not going to happen. We're not going to let that happen."
Myers praised the progress U.S. and coalition forces are making in Iraq, but acknowledged that many challenges remain. "It is going to be tough. And the soldiers and other service members who are over there participating in this directly, they know how tough it is. It's hot, it's dirty, and sometimes it can be very unfriendly."
Despite these obstacles, Myers said the men and women in uniform have carried out every job they've been given "in a very dedicated, professional, and proud way." And as they do so, he said, "they are winning over the Iraqi people."
"We're not only the finest armed forces in the world, in terms of our ability to take the fight to the enemy," he said. "We can be very fierce when we need to be fierce, but we are also the most caring and compassionate force in the world. And we see that every day in Afghanistan, and we see that every day in Iraq."
Winning the war, Myers said, will take three things: patience, commitment and the will to win. "Our service members have all three of these things," he said. "I think we have the patience; we know this is going to be a long war, so we have to set ourselves in for that. It's going to require commitment, and you don't have to look very far in our armed forces to know that our folks are focused and committed.
"And third is, the will to win. And clearly all of our service men and women understand the stakes and have that will to win."
Myers said his trips to Southwest Asia to visit the troops reaffirm his confidence in that will to win. "They say that it's not a fun place to be, but that it's a very important mission," he said. "They have ultimate confidence in winning this war."