CJCS Says Volunteer Military Going Strong After 30 Years
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 25, 2003 Today's all-volunteer force is strong, vibrant and has successfully met myriad challenges in the global war on terrorism, the U.S. military's top officer said here June 25.
This is largely so, because "for the most part, everybody who is serving is someone who wants to serve," asserted Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Under the conscription, or draft, military, which was replaced by the all-volunteer system July 1, 1973, draftees were required to spend two years in the active military.
Adoption of the all-volunteer military concept resulted in having people stay in uniform longer, Myers pointed out, and in turn enabled the military to focus on improving the training and quality of life for service members.
"If you think people are going to be with you longer, then certain things accrue on how you take care of your people . It's forced us to focus better on that," the JCS chief remarked.
Although military members have seen several pay raises and improved housing in recent years, Myers pointed out that quality-of-life issues remain a work in progress.
"If we're going to have an all-volunteer force," Myers said, then "we're going to have to take care of (service members) and their families."
Comparisons of the people in the draft-era and all- volunteer militaries are difficult, the general pointed out, noting that both systems featured patriots.
"Individually, I don't know if you can ascribe differences" between the conscripted and all-volunteer systems," Myers said.
Since today's service members stay in the military longer, they're receiving better training and education than draftees, which, overall, provides "a stronger force," Myers pointed out.
Yet, even a strong force may experience fatigue because of numerous, sometimes back-to-back deployments, he acknowledged.
"Probably the biggest thing we can do" to improve quality of life for service members, Myers said, "is to provide some predictability in the lives of our folks," including Guard and reserve members.
For example, during the 1990s and during the war against terrorism "some units have been called up over and over," Myers observed, while others "haven't been called at all."
Consequently, he noted, DoD officials are currently studying methods, such as adjusting force mix, to solve overdeployment issues.
The all-volunteer force has been highly successful fighting and defeating America's enemies during the global war against terrorism, Myers noted, pointing to the performance of the noncommissioned officer corps, a group of leaders who "get the job done."
"It's a structure of mid-level management, if you will, that is key to our success" in the anti-terror war, the four-star general asserted.
The recruiting force is another essential element of the all-volunteer military, Myers observed.
"People have to be made aware of the opportunities" that are available by joining the armed forces, Myers remarked, noting that both recruiting and retention have been good since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
Military life "is a dangerous job," Myers pointed out, especially during these turbulent times. Yet, he observed that young people continue to volunteer for military service, recognizing the good pay and benefits.
And most volunteers "have a sense of duty to their country -- and patriotism," Myers said, and are responding to protect the nation against its greatest threat since World War II and the Revolutionary War.
The all-volunteer force is undeniably a success, since America's military is the best in the world, Myers declared.
"We just saw our military in action in Iraq," he explained. "We saw fierce warriors and, at the same time, very compassionate warriors, who kept civilian casualties at a minimum.
"It's hard to imagine another system that would produce that kind of soldier, airman, Marine, sailor, Coastguardsman than the one we have," Myers declared.
The 30th anniversary of the Volunteer Force will be celebrated July 1 at the White House during a special re- enlistment ceremony hosted by President Bush, Myers noted.
In addition to the White House event, special enlistment ceremonies will be held that day at military entrance processing stations across the country, according to a DoD message.