Gates Thanks 10th Mountain Division for Sacrifices
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
FORT DRUM, N.Y., July 16, 2009 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates began his town hall meeting here today by acknowledging the sacrifices of the members of the 10th Mountain Division.
“Much has been asked of this division over the last two decades, from Somalia to repeat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq,” Gates said. “The 10th Mountain Division team has delivered for our country time and again. We are a safer and more secure nation as a result.”
Some of the division’s soldiers have paid the ultimate price, Gates noted.
“I know that several of your own have recently fallen in Afghanistan,” Gates said. “My words are wholly inadequate to characterize their sacrifice or the sacrifice of so many from this division for the last 8 years of war.”
The secretary also took a moment to thank the soldiers’ families.
“I know how much they sacrifice in order for you to be able to serve,” Gate told the troops. “They are truly the power behind the power.”
As the United States fights two wars, Gates said he is mindful of the stress on Army families back home. The quality of life for soldiers, their families, and especially wounded warriors, remains his top priority, Gates said.
“I consider the well-being of each and every one of you to be my personal responsibility,” he added. “For the younger ones of you, I care about you the way I would my own son and daughter. For all of you, my highest priority is to do everything possible to help you accomplish your mission, to win, and to come home safely.”
He went on to laud the improvements Army leaders on Fort Drum are making in troop and family support, citing the expansion of the child development center and the Guthrie Ambulatory Health Care Clinic, the new Warrior in Transition Support Center and Clinic, and the renovation of more family housing units.
Gates noted that four brigades from the 10th Mountain Division would be returning to Iraq to serve in an advisory capacity beginning this fall.
“With the announcement of your upcoming return to theater, I know I speak for all Americans when I wish you the best on the arduous missions that await you,” Gates said. “The nation is grateful for your service.”
Before introducing Gates, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division Commander Army Maj. Gen Mike Oates spoke to the troops, acknowledging that frequent and lengthy deployments like the division’s soldiers have faced can cause stress on the soldiers and their families. While the soldiers of Fort Drum and their families are not immune, he said, they seem to be handling things well.
“I think all of us are trying to understand what the nature of the stress is on the force, how to stay ahead of it, if you will, because it does change based on the first deployment, or the second, or the third,” Oates said. “Two one-year tours are not the same as three three-month tours, or one 15-month tour.”
As for the families who also have to deal with the frequent and lengthy tours, he said he recognizes that they feel like they’re serving alongside their servicemember.
“I think most of our families don’t regard themselves as victims and don’t appreciate sometimes the victimology piece,” he said. “They are very proud of the service of their soldiers overseas and they see themselves, as family members, serving their country through this sacrifice.
Sometimes, however, the focus falls too squarely on the few who are really struggling.
Oates said that on Fort Drum, most people not only live through stressful periods in their lives, but grow from them. To help his soldiers and their families achieve this growth, Oates said the post is looking very seriously at resiliency training as a way to cope with stress.
Gates concluded the town hall by fielding questions from the soldiers before presenting each of them with his challenge coin.
The stop here was the first leg of a two-day trip. Gates is scheduled to speak to the Economic Club of Chicago this evening and address recruits graduating from Naval Station Great Lakes tomorrow. The secretary will return to Washington tomorrow in time to bid farewell to Army Secretary Pete Geren, who is leaving his post after two years on the job.