Face of Defense: Forscom Chief Retires After 40 years
By Larry Stevens
U.S. Forces Command Public Affairs
FORT McPHERSON, Ga. , Jun. 3, 2010 After 40 years of service dating back to the Vietnam War, Gen. Charles C. "Hondo" Campbell, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, will relinquish his command and retire today during a ceremony here.
A contemplative Gen. Charles C. Campbell has led U.S. Army Forces Command for the past three years. Forscom is responsible for about 750,000 soldiers and 3,500 civilian employees. It is the provider of expeditionary, campaign-capable land forces to combatant commanders worldwide. U.S. Army photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Campbell took over the Army's largest command Jan. 9, 2007, becoming Forscom’s 17th commander. When he turns over command and steps into retirement, another chapter in the legacy of the Vietnam War comes to a close, because Campbell is the last continuously serving general officer who saw action in Vietnam to leave active duty.
As for the origin of Campbell's now famous nickname, "Hondo," it is somewhat obscure. The "folklore" suggests it is related to the character in the Louis L'Amour western novel by the same name, a role played by John Wayne in the movie version of the classic tale. Whatever the origin, it's a name he has carried with pride during his decades-long career.
Campbell entered the Army in 1970 when the active component was 1.2 million soldiers strong, and it was a conscripted force.
"When I went to Vietnam, we had more than 500,000 soldiers in Vietnam [alone]," Campbell said. Compared to the size of today's all-volunteer active Army component - about 560,000 soldiers- it was certainly a far different force.
"So when I look across broad brush strokes of 40 years, there were three [turning] points that were really strategic, in my view, as it relates to the Army," Campbell said.
The first turning point, he said, occurred in July 1973 when the Army became an all-volunteer force. At that time the Army had to change itself to embrace a doctrine of maneuver for a possible fight in Europe against the Soviet threat. The second point occurred in 1989, he continued, when the Berlin Wall collapsed and the Army had to reinvent itself into an expeditionary force. The third turning point came on Sept. 11, 2001, Campbell said, after which the Army had to become capable of prosecuting protracted conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"The Army of today is a fundamentally different from the Army of 2001," Campbell observed.
"We have adapted for the present and the future fight,” he said. “We have moved from a division structure to a brigade-centric modular structure, from a linear-force generation model to a rotational-force generation model that is characterized by progressive readiness and cyclical deployment and from a National Guard and Army Reserve that was a strategic force to one that is [now] fully integrated into the operational force and are (now) making proportional contributions every day.”.
Campbell has commanded all continental U.S.-based conventional operating forces for much of the last four years.
"Our Army is clearly fatigued by nearly nine years of combat. But, through it all, our Army remains resilient, determined and extraordinarily effective,” he said. “Our soldiers today are more expert, better educated, better trained, more lethal and more combat-experienced than at any time, certainly, in the 40 years I have served in the ranks.”
Campbell observed how things have changed at Forscom since he arrived there as its deputy commanding general in 2006, before later assuming command.
"For many, many years, Forscom was a management headquarters,” he said. “In the last four years, it has become an operating headquarters. That's a significant change that has been lost on many. [But] it's not lost on anyone who has been assigned to Forces Command."
Campbell also said there have been massive strides taken to improve readiness in the Guard and Reserve.
The reserve components have “emerged as a national treasure,” Campbell said, noting today’s Guard and Reserve force “is more seasoned, more capably led, more robustly manned and better equipped than at any time since World War II."
"Certainly, we need to continue our effort to operationalize the Guard and Reserve,” he said, “and to ensure it is fully integrated in the operating force, and that it continues to make a proportional contribution in the years ahead as it has done in the recent past.”