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Army's New Top Soldier Visits Bagram

By Sgt. Greg Heath, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2003 – Soldiers got a first look at their newest boss, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the 35th Army chief of staff, Aug. 18 when he visited troops here. His visit was part of his tour of Afghanistan.

Schoomaker retired from the Army in 2000 after 31 years of service and returned to active duty Aug. 1 to take his present position. His trip was an opportunity to become reacquainted with soldiers serving on the front lines of the global war on terrorism.

"It's important for (Gen. Schoomaker) to be here to show that he cares and to find out what's going on personally with the soldiers," said Sgt. Maj. Sonny Mitchell, of the task force's operations staff. "You can't do it over a telephone or video teleconference."

Upon arriving, the general addressed more than 100 soldiers and coalition service members gathered outside Combined Joint Task Force 180 headquarters. He said there was one main reason for coming out of retirement to take on this new assignment.

"There was absolutely no question in my mind to come back on active duty when asked to do so ... and it's because of you all," he said. "It's not anything about money or any of that stuff; it's about knowing what's right, one's sense of duty."

For Spc. Daryl Keith, of the 35th Signal Brigade, having the top Army soldier visit was a big morale booster. "It feels good to have the highest-ranking soldier come over and show his personal gratitude to the soldiers," he said.

Mitchell agreed: "He is showing that he supports us and giving us a chance to show we're going to support him as our new boss."

While speaking to the troops, Schoomaker noted that he was proud of what they had achieved all over the world while fighting the war on terrorism, but admitted that the fight was far from over.

"This is going to go on for a long time, and I'm not just talking about here in Afghanistan," he said. "It's a different world now and we're going to have to be to do what's necessary to stand up for our way of life and our world in the future, and it's going to take people like you willing to stand between harm and our homelands to do that."

(Sgt. Greg Heath is assigned to the 4th Public Affairs Detachment on station in Afghanistan.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker visited troops at Bagram Air Base Afghanistan, Aug. 18. He retired from the Army in 2000 after 31 years of service and returned to active duty Aug. 1 to take his present position. Photo by Sgt. Greg Heath.  
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