White House Ceremony Marks 30 Years of All-Volunteer Force
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 1, 2003 With right hands and voices raised, 30 military personnel from each branch of the armed forces repeated the oath of re-enlistment in the White House East Room today.
This re-enlistment ceremony marked the 30th anniversary of the all-volunteer force. Presiding over the event was Commander in Chief George W. Bush. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, read the oath.
The White House ceremony was one of many held throughout the Defense Department on this special day. Enlistment ceremonies were also held at 65 Military Entrance Processing Stations throughout the United States.
The all-volunteer force began when the draft ended June 30, 1973.
The White House event was a special not only to the participants, but also for the spectators in the room. Emma Gjiya traveled from New York City to Washington to see her brother re-enlist. She said that she was proud of him.
Her brother, Marine Cpl. Guyp Tchoumba, with the Military Security Force Battalion in Norfolk, Va., said he re- enlisted because he loves the United States. "The history, the people, are just wonderful," he observed. Tchoumba recently became a U.S. citizen. He and his sister are from the African Republic of Cameroon.
He also pointed out that he re-enlisted because he "felt he didn't give enough" during his first four years of service. But most importantly, he said he wanted to be a part of the United States Marines who "have a job to finish."
Air Force Staff Sgt. Kimberly Scott re-enlisted because she loves the Air Force and because of the "pride you feel when you put on the United States Air Force uniform."
The president addressed an audience populated with a mix of service members, their families and Pentagon leaders. Bush told them that in the past 30 years the country has seen the "great advantages of a military in which all serve by their own decision."
"Our country's all-volunteer force attracts idealistic and committed young Americans. They stay in service longer because they have chosen the military life," he said.
"The result is a military with the highest level of training and experience, motivation and professionalism." He added that military life is rewarding, but even at its best "that life is difficult."
He said that serving in the military often involves separation and danger, "those who willingly make these sacrifices and the families who share their hardships have the respect and the gratitude of their fellow Americans."
The president also told the audience that today's military is serving in one of history's "most critical hours," reminding them that the terrorists who attacked Sept. 11, 2001, made clear their intentions to strike again.
"As long as terrorists and their allies plot to harm America, this country will be at war," Bush said. "We did not choose this war, yet with the safety of the American people at stake, we will continue to wage this war with all our might."
The president also used the occasion to outline the importance of a volunteer force and how it has led to successes in the global war on terrorism as well as the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said that from the beginning, "we have known the effort would be long and difficult, and that our resolve would be tested. We know that sacrifice is unavoidable.
"We have seen victories in the decisive defeat of two terror regimes and in the relentless pursuit of a global terror network. Yet the war on terror goes on. We will not be distracted, and we will prevail," he said.
Of the 230,000 military serving inside and near Iraq, the president said, "As commander in chief, I will assure them we will stay on the offensive against the enemy and all who attack our troops will be met with direct and decisive force."
"As America fights our war against terror, we will continue to depend on the skill and courage of our volunteer military," Bush noted.
He said the re-enlistees were answering the "highest call of citizenship. They have stood between the American people and the dangers of the world and we are glad they are staying on duty." "In these last 22 months, our armed forces have been tested and tested again," he said. "In every case, in every mission, America's servicemen and women have brought credit to the uniform, to our flag, and to our country. We have needed you, and you have never let us down." "I want to thank you for keeping your pledge of duty to America, and thank you for renewing that demanding pledge today."