Mullen Thanks Troops for Service at ‘Critical Time’
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii, Feb. 21, 2008 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday thanked U.S. forces serving in the Pacific for stepping forward to serve their country at what he called “a very critical time” in the nation’s history.
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to servicemembers at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, Feb. 20, 2008. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke to about 400 servicemembers at an “all-hands” meeting here.
“We’re in our sixth year of war right now, and we’re at the beginning of what I see as a very long war, very much a sustained effort, and one that will continue to take the significant contributions that you all are making,” Mullen said. “You are very special, because you all raised your right hand to serve your country at a very critical time in our history.”
Mullen said today’s U.S. military is the best he has ever seen in his almost 40 years of service. He credited families with a large part of the success of the force, and he thanked family members for their service. “Families, through thick and thin in this war, have been incredibly supportive, and they are pushed,” he said.
Six years of war have brought tremendous change to the U.S. military and to the world as a whole, Mullen said, and he told servicemembers here they can expect more change in the years to come.
“Just look at what has happened over the last six years and how we’ve changed as a force, how our country has changed, regions have changed and the world has changed,” he said.
It’s an unpredictable world, he said, “and I’d like to be able to tell you in two or three years that this is exactly what we’d be doing, where we’d be doing, or even when we’d be doing, but I can’t.”
The military will continue to change, he said, whether it be in tactics, techniques and procedures, training or leadership challenges.
“Things have changed in how we’re fighting, and they will continue to change,” he said. “The enemy is pretty quick, pretty adaptive (and) very lethal, and we need to be able to match and exceed the enemy’s speed in this irregular and asymmetric environment we find ourselves in.”
Servicemembers today find themselves doing things they never would have imagined a few short years ago, the chairman noted. They are becoming more culturally aware, are learning new languages and are stepping up to new educational requirements, he said. “We’re globally engaged militarily, and we will remain so,” he added.
Though a great deal of American focus is on the U.S. Central Command area of operations, Mullen said, the Pacific is an important lynchpin in America’s future.
“I have spent a decade of my career out here in the Pacific,” he said. “I know how important this region is. It’s growing in importance, and that is tied to the resources and economies around the Pacific basin.
“What you do will be vital to our security and the security of the Pacific region,” he continued. “You are at the heart of that, and I don’t expect that to slow down.”
As the pace of change continues, Mullen said, he is concerned about continued pressure on the armed forces, especially ground forces.
“The 15-month deployment is too long,” he said. “We need to get back to 12-month deployments as soon as possible. The cumulative effect of these deployments is something we have to pay attention to.”
As the military moves forward, Mullen said, everyone in uniform must be a leader.
“I don’t care if you are an E-1 or someone as senior as I am,” he said. “You are responsible for yourselves, your unit and each other. You are connected that way, and the expectation is that we all lead and lead well. We take care of each other and respect each other, and it runs the full spectrum of leading from the front, the rear and leading your peers.”
Great leaders are needed to solve the problems of this difficult time, the admiral said.
“We are being pushed very hard right now,” he told the servicemembers. “All of you need to reach your potential, and all of those who work are given an opportunity to succeed as well. Everybody has got a dream and a vision and a future that is very bright, and we have to make sure we get everybody there.”