Chairman Checks Morale Among Deployed Troops
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, July 16, 2007 Families and morale are important parts of the equation in assessing the health of the force, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace (left) and Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander, multi-national Forces Iraq, survey sites along the way to the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, July 16, 2007. General Pace is visiting Iraq to met leadership, visit troops and to assess the operations in Iraq. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace arrived here today to meet with leaders and troops in an effort to assess troop morale in U.S. Central Command during a swing through the region.
Pace and Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman, will meet with troops all over the country. Also helping with the assessment is retired Marine Col. Barney Barnum, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for reserve affairs. Barnum received the Medal of Honor for actions in combat in Vietnam in 1969.
“What’s important from a military standpoint is what we see on the battlefield,” Pace said. “I think from the standpoint of stress on the force, what’s important is what you see in the kitchens. Both of these aspects need to be taken into consideration when looking at the health of the force.”
Tour lengths, dwell time between deployments, the number of tours affect both troop and family morale, the chairman said. “We need to make sure those who volunteer -- that one percent of the nation that signs up to protect the other 99 percent -- know that their service is valued and that we provide for them as best we can,” Pace said.
The war on terror is the first prolonged war the United States has fought with an all-volunteer force.
“There is no historical data to go back to,” Pace said. “That’s why it’s really important for me and everybody else to constantly talk to people and listen to them. Retention is still extremely high -- higher than it was before the war -- but you just can’t take numbers like that and assume that it means everything is just fine.”
And families are incredibly important to the equation. Pace said the force today is an “all-recruited force.”
“You recruit individuals, but you retain families,” he said.
Part of his trip will be to visit families of American servicemembers deployed to U.S. Central Command from Europe.
“I owe it to them to stand in front of them and explain to them the process that we went through from July through December last year,” Pace told reporters traveling with him to Iraq. “(I want to tell them) how my thinking emerged, why I made the recommendations I did and, most importantly, tell them that we understand their sacrifice.”
This is the first time Pace has had the opportunity to meet with these Europe-based family members since the decision to extend soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan to 15 months. He has met with families in Alaska, Hawaii and other stateside posts, but this is the first time meeting with families living overseas.
“It’s important to remember that it is not just the men and women in uniform that are making the sacrifices,” he said. “The families are the ones changing the calendars on the refrigerator doors.”
Pace said there are many ways to quantify morale of the force. Reenlistment is strong, “but that’s not good enough for me,” he said. “I want to get out and talk to the families. I want to look the spouses in the eyes and talk to them about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and get their reactions.”