Army Commemorates 35 Years of All-Volunteer Force
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 1, 2008 Thirty-one soldiers celebrated the 35th anniversary of the all-volunteer force by enlisting or re-enlisting in the Pentagon courtyard today.
Army Secretary Pete Geren said more than 1 million active, Guard and reserve soldiers, more than 200,000 Army civilians, and more than 600,000 Army family members have made the all-volunteer force a success and the envy of the world.
“Our Army is the strength of our nation, because our soldiers, civilians and families do stand together -- and stand together no matter how tough the times get,” Geren said.
Geren turned to the 16 soldiers who were re-enlisting and the 15 who were enlisting and told them they are part of the “best-led, best-trained and the best-equipped Army on the face of the Earth.”
The secretary thanked the soldiers for their commitment and called them “the greatest of this generation.”
The all-volunteer force is a national treasure, the Army secretary said. It didn’t start that way. In 1973, the Army faced almost insurmountable odds. The draftee Army suffered from the same ills that plagued society -- drugs, Vietnam and volatile race relations.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. remembered what life was like as he reported to his first unit in Germany in 1971 -- two years before the all-volunteer force. When he reported to his first unit, “there were nine guys in the platoon,” Casey said following the ceremony. “Four of them were pending chapter discharges [for drug use]. I had one noncommissioned officer who was an E-6 who was pretty squared-away. Everybody else was just an acting sergeant.
“It took getting rid of those guys and getting an influx of new troops before we could build a good platoon,” he continued. “It was a really different Army. We carried loaded .45s as we pulled our duty officer duties back then. We never had to take it out, but it was an incredibly different Army.”
Casey said the one development of the last 35 years that made the biggest difference to the service was the noncommissioned officer corps. “They’re the ones who take these kids and shape them into men and women who become real soldiers,” he said. “That’s what it is all about.”