Today, we pay tribute to the career and achievements of one Army leader, welcome another, and reflect on the ways that this command has transformed itself and the Army.
General Scott Wallace’s retirement and relinquishment of this command brings to a close nearly four decades of training, mentoring, and leading soldiers at every level. The arc and trajectory of that career – culminating in the changes General Wallace has led here in TRADOC – in many ways tracks the story of the U.S. Army over the past two generations:
- From the Vietnam War and the draft;
- To the all-volunteer force and victory in Desert Storm;
- To draw-downs and drift after the Cold War; and finally
- To the post-9/11 campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Spurred by the demands of fighting brutal and adaptive insurgencies in two theaters, the Army has seen a dramatic and historic shift in the way it is organized, equipped, and, above all, trained. Under General Wallace’s leadership and guidance, this Command has become the institutional and intellectual “ground zero” of that transformation – in its school houses and training ranges, in classrooms real and virtual.
This mission – to recruit and train the next generation of soldiers, and develop the next generation of adaptive leaders – could not be more crucial in light of the threats that have emerged in this dangerous new century: a toxic mixture of the conventional and irregular, the high-tech and the low, the internet and the I.E.D. General Wallace saw this firsthand in the opening phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as commander of V Corps. En route to the expected showdown against the Republican Guard, Scott’s soldiers found themselves fending off the swarming, paramilitary fighters of the Fedayeen Saddam – a harbinger of things to come.
This experience well positioned General Wallace to take on a daunting set of tasks here at TRADOC:
- To recruit more and more young people over a period of time when fewer and fewer were qualified for military service, and to do so while images of violence and news of casualties filled the TV screens of parents, teachers, and other influencers;
- To re-orient the thinking, assumptions, and skill sets of a force designed for high-tech sprints towards the capabilities needed to succeed also in grinding asymmetric marathons – the wars we are in and are most likely to see in the coming years; and
- To do all this while re-organizing the force in the middle of two major ground wars with an Active Army about one-third the size it was when Scott first entered the service.
His achievements, and the achievements of TRADOC, have been impressive – and historic:
- The Army has met its annual recruiting goals for the last three years.
- Basic training has been overhauled to instill the warrior ethos in every new recruit – with more time devoted to the skills needed to survive and succeed on today’s battlefield: marksmanship, physical fitness, urban warfare, convoy security, cultural awareness, and much more. Because of Scott’s efforts, new soldiers arrive at their units today far more ready to deploy and fight than in years past.
- At our national training centers, Iraqi cities and Afghan villages inhabited by Arabic and Pashtu speakers have sprung up to provide the most grueling, realistic training possible in the sands of Fort Irwin and the forests of Fort Polk.
During General Wallace’s tenure, the best brains inside and outside the army were brought together to publish new doctrine on counterinsurgency and stability operations – bolstered by a substantial increase in the amount of instruction devoted to irregular and asymmetric conflict in the Army’s staff colleges.
As one of the last Vietnam veterans on active service, General Wallace has been uniquely positioned to ensure that the “lessons learned” in Iraq and Afghanistan become a permanent part of the Army’s DNA, and do not become “lessons lost,” as happened too often in the past.
I am told that over the years from the rice paddies of Bac Lieu province to the Karbala Gap – General Wallace has accumulated a set of truisms that he imparts to the best and brightest coming through TRADOC’s school houses. One of them is to never forget that “no matter how spiffy and brilliant the plan,” operations will always be executed by scared and tired 19 year olds. Due in no small part to Scott’s efforts these past three years, those 19 year olds will be very well trained, expertly led, and far more likely to succeed in their mission and come home safely to their families.
A word about Sharon Wallace: In a lifetime of service she has inspired and led volunteers at every post – improving the lives of soldiers and their families, endeavoring, as she’s been known to say, “to leave [a community] a better place than when you got there.” So, Scott and Sharon: best of luck as you begin a new chapter of your lives together in Florida.
As I said at U.S. Central Command a few weeks ago, General Marty Dempsey – with his experience commanding U.S. troops in Baghdad, overseeing the training and equipping of Iraqi Security Forces, and his leadership of CENTCOM – is uniquely suited to take the helm of this organization at this critical time. We all expect great things from you, Marty, and wish you and Deanie well here at Fort Monroe.
I just finished reading a book about Henry Knox, the first Secretary of War and in many ways the father of professional military education. Knox once said that soldiers “can never act with confidence until they are masters of their profession.” This fundamental truth is reflected in the work that you – the men and women of TRADOC – do every day. It is a daunting responsibility. We know you are more than up to the task. Thank you, and I thank your families for their service. God speed.