Chairman Answers Soldier’s Readiness Question
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
AMMAN, Jordan, Aug. 19, 2013 Troops call it the pointy end of the spear. Where the rubber meets the road. The place where some say, half-jokingly, no plan survives first contact with the enemy.
U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks to U.S. and Jordanian troops at a military facility on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan, Aug. 15, 2013. DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
American service members deployed in scores of places around the world serve as a strong deterrent against potential threats. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stood in one such place Aug. 15 and talked to service members -- U.S. and partnered -- and civilians manning the tactical operations center. Their mission is to partner with Jordanian forces that are grappling with security and refugee challenges caused by the civil conflict in Syria.
Picture field-expedient, theater-style seating packed with scores of military support planners at computers, backed by a maze of plywood partitions marking off office cubicles, all baking under a metal warehouse roof while the few air conditioning units generate noise but little relief.
The chairman stood there, and he answered a military readiness question asked by an American soldier holding private first class rank. The soldier said he didn’t feel he’d had enough training to be prepared for combat, and he commented that equipment was “constantly breaking down.”
The chairman said budget challenges are affecting maintenance -- keeping equipment combat-ready -- and pre-deployment training.
“What we’re trying to do is to shield the deploying units from that challenge -- so I don’t care what branch of service you’re in; if you’re not scheduled for deployment in the next year, your training is affected and your readiness is affected in terms of maintenance,” Dempsey said.
He explained that leaders “are moving the money” so U.S. military units coming up on deployment get priority in training dollars.
“I hope that’s a problem that’s unique to this year -- but it may not be,” Dempsey added. “It might be that we suffer one more year of this.”
The chairman referenced a previous question, when someone had asked him about the likely pace of future deployments.
“We talk about predictability in deployments,” he noted. “I wish my budget was predictable.”
The chairman told troops he doesn’t have the option of throwing up his hands and telling the nation’s leaders, “We don’t have enough predictability, so we’re going to ‘squat and hold.’”
Dempsey added, “What you’re doing here is serving our nation’s interests, and ensuring the security of your family members and your fellow citizens. And we’re going to do that.
“And sometimes -- and this is the part that bothers me a lot, and bothers all of us who call ourselves leaders -- we don’t want to send you someplace unless you’re absolutely ready to go,” he continued. “And I think that probably [there were] a couple of occasions this year where we had to do that, and you may be one of them.”
Dempsey told the private first class, “Here’s my commitment to you. You need to let us know where you felt there were gaps … in your preparedness, and we’ll address them.”
The chairman said troops who are deployed around the world performing the nation’s missions “shouldn’t feel any pressure of readiness. And if you do, let us know where and we’ll straighten it out.”
Dempsey cautioned his audience that everyone else across the services “will be feeling it.”
“And we’ve got to fight our way through that,” he said.