Chairman Fields Troops’ Questions
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2007 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff fielded questions Feb. 22 and 23 from active duty, National Guard and Reserve troops in Alaska at the Army’s Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, and at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage.
U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answers a question during a town hall meeting with military personnel on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, Friday, Feb. 23, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The troops asked Marine Gen. Peter Pace about equipment shortfalls in the Guard and Reserve, varying tour lengths among the services, whether there should be a joint force utility uniform for all the services and the possibility of a civilian service corps.
Pace told the troops the budget includes about $21 billion for new equipment for the Guard and Reserve and about $17 billion to fix the equipment that has been broken and damaged. “You end up with about $37-$38 billion over the next five years specifically earmarked for either new or refurbished equipment,” he said.
“We could not have, and will not be able to do what this nation needs to do without the Guard and Reserve,” he stressed. “We owe these great Americans the same support that we give to our active forces. We need to make sure they’re properly resourced – properly manned, properly trained, and properly equipped. So when we ask them to do our nation’s business, they are ready to do so.”
Pace also said military leaders are taking a good hard look at the way they compensate Guard and Reserve troops in relation to the way they compensate active duty.
“The secretary of defense and the secretaries of the departments clearly understand the value to the nation of the Guard and Reserve,” he said. “We’re all looking for ways to show that to the Guard and Reserve in a way that keeps the force properly balanced.”
Turning to tour lengths, the chairman said he very aware of the concerns troops have over varying deployment lengths between services.
“It drives me nuts when I go sit down at a mess hall table in Baghdad and you sit there and each servicemember sitting around the table is there for a different tour length,” he said. “I have spent a lot of time trying to think through how to get us on the right tour length.”
Each service’s way of deploying and operations tempo determines their tour lengths, he said. “The Marines, for example, are tied to Navy deployment cycles. Navy deployment cycles could be changed also, but when you look at big ships and the kinds of maintenance they need, six to seven months out and then some time back is about right.
“But even if you take away the Navy linkage to the Marines, about 49 percent of the Marine Corps is lance corporals and below, and most of those Marines stay for four-year tours. For the Marine Corps, six- or seven-month tours, followed by 12 months at home, followed by another six- or seven-month tour, gets the Marine Corps more deployed months per four-year enlistment than any other cycle than the Marine Corps can come up with.
“For the Army, which has a lot more senior level leaders in it beyond the first four years,” he said, “the cycle could be six months, but when you look at the current requirement for now 25 brigades, and you do the math of traveling over and traveling back and moving equipment around, you end up not having enough force to be able to reduce to six-month tours and still provide the 25 brigades overseas.”
The Air Force tour lengths are based on airplane maintenance and the integration of the Air National Guard, Pace said, and “four-month tours are about right for them to get the most efficient use of all their people.”
Pace said he understands how troops feel about the unequal tour lengths.
“It’s disheartening for the soldier who’s there for 12 months looking across the table at an Air Force person who’s there for four and a Navy guy or Marine who’s there for six or seven,” he said. “No matter what you say about all the math and all the science, it doesn’t compute when you’re sitting in Baghdad trying to figure that out amongst your friends and buddies around the table,” he said
One servicemember asked the chairman if he thought there should be one utility uniform for all the services in the joint force. Pace said that although he’s pleased with the way the services have worked more closely together since the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 forced them to, he likes each service having its own uniform.
“The joint force is an enormously capable force,” he said. “Goldwater-Nichols has done exactly what it should have done with regard to the melding of the force and making us rely on each other, but there are specific ethoses that go with each service.”
People who join the Air Force are different from those who join the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, he said, and “the various services’ ethos, and how they approach problems, is a great strength of our nation. … If you believe that having a little bit of internal friction and competition is good, and if you believe that diversity of ideas is healthy, then you want to strengthen the sense of community of each service and have different ethos.”
“I like being able to have that service’s pride reinforced by the separate uniforms,” he said. “I like getting from individuals their own opinions, based on their service experience about what the right way to go is. And after all of that is done, and everybody’s thoughts are on the table, and the joint commander makes the decision, then I like the fact that we all get in step and do what we’re supposed to do.”
Pace pointed out that he helped Marine Gen. Jim Jones, then commandant of the Marine Corps, develop a uniform for the Marines because they wanted to re-establish the uniqueness of the Marine battle uniform. “As a result of which, each of the other services has developed, or is in the process of developing their own uniforms, which I think is the right thing to do,” he said.
Another servicemember asked Pace about the possibility of a civilian reserve corps that he heard mentioned in the president’s state of the union address. Pace replied that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is working on the details of her plan for such a force.
U.S. leaders would call on the civilian reserve corps, he said, when a foreign nation needs help in building a dam, running an electric plant or city management – the kinds of things that traditionally default to the U.S. military because they’re on the ground. The civilian corps would be made up of volunteers who want to provide their expertise in support of our government helping other governments.
“If you look out the next 10, 15, 20 years and the challenges we’re going to be facing,” Pace said, “it would be so much better if we were able to help countries that are on the cusp of a problem to be able to strengthen themselves now and print terrorism from taking root, rather than having to go in and kick them out and then have to repair the damage and everything else that goes with it. I really am enthusiastic about the opportunity that this concept of a civilian reserve corps presents for the nation.”
The civilian reserve force ties in with Pace’s belief that all Americans should serve their country.
“All of us who are fortunate through accident of birth to be born in the United States, should find some way to repay our nation,” he said. “Not necessarily in uniform, but all youngsters ought to be encouraged to find a way to give back to the nation – whether it’s through civic community groups, the Peace Corps or any other number of ways where you take part of your life and you serve your community and your nation in a way that gives back to the nation.”