Mullen: U.S. Troops Constitute the ‘Best Military’ Ever
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C., June 4, 2010 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen yesterday saluted the exemplary actions of airmen and other U.S. military members serving worldwide during a visit with troops and families here.
From training Afghan army and police, protecting coalition forces and Afghan civilians and engaging enemy fighters, the mission in Afghanistan couldn’t be accomplished without the exceptional service of airmen, Mullen said here yesterday during an award ceremony and town hall meeting, where he presented three airmen with Bronze Star Medals.
“We are exceptional as a military because of what you do, you and so many others,” the admiral said. “The three of you represent thousands and thousands and thousands of our military who are serving forward now, members of the best military we’ve ever had.”
Maj. William Skinner, Master Sgt. Sean P. Houlihan and Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ferrell received the service awards.
Skinner spent seven months leading joint-embedded training teams in support of Afghan security forces operations. Houlihan is a public affairs airman whose expertise ensured that local, national and international communities were accurately informed of progress being made in Afghanistan. Houlihan’s work also included initiatives to gain local support of the Afghan government and discrediting extremist propaganda.
Ferrell is a bomb disposal technician who in Afghanistan led a team that dismantled and cleared 6,000 miles of roadways of more than 200 ordnances and bombs emplaced by insurgents.
“If you listen to the specifics of those awards, … there’s an awful lot in those three awards that captures both our requirements and our mission,” Mullen said. “To say the least, we just flat out can’t get it done without outstanding airmen like the ones we just recognized.”
Mullen also emphasized his appreciation for the support of military families. The past nine years of frequent combat deployments has taken a toll on the families, but their resilience and understanding has allowed troops to focus on their missions, he said.
“These are tough times, tough missions, lots of deployments,” the admiral said. “They’re dangerous, people worry, and [military leaders] understand that. What [families] do and sacrifice is every bit as special as those of us who go forward and carry out these missions. It’s because of [the families] that we’re able to succeed in so many places.”
Mullen noted how the Air Force has adapted to longer deployments. In the late 1990s and early after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a typical Air Force deployment was 60 days. Now, airmen are deploying for six- and nine-month rotations.
But even as major operations and the number of U.S. troops in Iraq decrease, Mullen acknowledged that there are no clear signs that the military’s operational tempo is slowing down anytime soon.
“One of the biggest challenges we’ve had is our tempo,” he said. “We have pushed you, pushed the Air Force, pushed our airmen hard, and you have really met the task time and time again. You’ve set the example in so many ways.”
Meanwhile airmen, just as troops in the other services, should continue to evolve. Mullen stressed the importance of gaining better understanding of the countries troops operate in by honing their language skills and cultural awareness.
“In countries all over the world, try to understand the challenges from their perspective, not from an American perspective [and] not how we would solve the problem” Mullen said. “We’re not going to stay anywhere forever. It really is important, as it is in Afghanistan, that Afghanistan figure out its way ahead and we support them.”
Just as the military services have become more expeditionary and versatile over the past 15 years, Mullen said such growth needs to continue in order to stay ahead of the global challenges and missions that may surface in the future.
“We need to change in order to meet the needs,” he said. “Of all the things we do, the mission is at the top of the list. The mission is why we’re in the military. The mission is why we deploy.”