Service Leaders Thank Congress for Terror War Support
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2004 Senior Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine leaders thanked Congress for its support of troops and their families in the global war on terrorism at a House Armed Services Committee hearing here Nov. 17.
In reporting on the status of the Army, Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker led off the chiefs' testimony by noting that he and soldiers worldwide "could not begin to accomplish what we have" without the fiscal wherewithal provided by the government's legislative branch.
"It is your support," Schoomaker told committee members, "that is providing our soldiers the tools they need to carry on their important, and most often dangerous, work."
Addressing the strain of multiple overseas deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and other locales in recent years, Schoomaker acknowledged, "there's no question that the pace of our nation at war challenges our Army."
Yet, the active-duty Army continues to meet its missions, Schoomaker remarked, in tandem "with the seamless commitment" of National Guard and Reserve soldiers "and our families who continue to give so selflessly to our nation."
With the help of Congress, Schoomaker said, the Army is transforming itself to meet 21st century threats while simultaneously fulfilling current global commitments.
By the end of 2006, the Army will have added 10 new-style, modular brigades, Schoomaker explained, which in old terms equate to three and a half divisions. Last year, he noted, the Army grew by about 15,000 soldiers, with another 15,000 slated to come on board.
As the war against terrorism continues, Schoomaker saluted the "soldiers who put it all on the line and our families who are bearing the burden," noting the Army is doing everything it can to support them.
For example, 400,000 sets of upgraded body armor, Schoomaker said, have been produced since March 2003. "Today, not one soldier, sailor, airman or Marine," he emphasized, is deployed into combat without body armor.
And the number of up-armored Humvees deployed in Iraq, the Army four-star general noted, has increased from 250 to about 5,600 in the past 15 months. The current goal, he noted, is to provide 8,100 up-armored Humvees in Iraq.
Also, "we're hardening another 12,800 vehicles with add-on armor kits," Schoomaker reported. And with Congress's support, he added, "we will armor all of the 30,000-plus vehicles that are in theater today."
Schoomaker applauded the efforts of acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee, who's slated to step down. Brownlee provided "superb leadership," Schoomaker noted, "and has been a great partner as we have faced the challenge before us." Francis Harvey, confirmed Nov. 16 to become the new secretary of the Army, was sworn into office today.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon E. Clark also thanked the committee and the rest of Congress for their support. Naval readiness today, Clark noted, is higher than it's been since 1968, when the admiral joined the service.
The Navy is supporting Army and Marine efforts in Iraq, Clark reported, noting that "34 percent of the fleet is deployed doing America's business, not only in the Arabian Gulf, but in other parts of the world."
Navy Seabee engineers are serving in Iraq, as well as corpsmen deployed alongside Marines, Clark pointed out. And naval and Marine aviators, he noted, are conducting aerial missions with the Air Force in support of ground operations in Iraq. Naval personnel, he added, have conducted more than 5,000 interdiction operations in the theater of operations.
Clark also cited the importance of maintaining the Navy's fleet of EA-6B Prowler tactical electronic-warfare aircraft and P-3 reconnaissance planes.
Reporting on the status of the air expeditionary forces deployment concept, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper told committee members "that our ability to pull eight or our 10 AEFs forward to engage in major combat operations, and then reset those, has been a success."
The Air Force, Jumper said, took a lesson from how the Navy and Marine Corps rotated their deployed overseas forces. Now, he said, the Air Force is "in a good rotation pattern." Eighty percent of airmen deployed to war theaters of operation, he noted, are now on 120-day rotations, up from previous 90-day rotations.
And about 20 percent of deployed airmen in high-demand jobs are serving in overseas war zones for longer periods, Jumper said, for up to one-year rotations.
Jumper saluted the efforts of Air Force pilots conducting aerial security missions over the homeland. The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, he said, perform more than 80 percent of that mission.
"They are doing a magnificent job," Jumper said. "We couldn't be more proud of them."
The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard, he pointed out, also constitute about 55 percent of tactical airlift missions. That mission, he said, has airlifted 2.8 million tons of military equipment to wartime theaters of operation while transporting more than 11 million passengers.
As a member of the joint-forces team, the Air Force is doing its part, Jumper said, noting that about 2,000 airmen have been assisting the Army by performing convoy and security duties in Iraq.
And the new FA-22 fighter program, he said, "is now emerging from the test phase and into production phase with magnificent results."
Regarding an upcoming need to pare airmen to meet new personnel end-strength limits, Jumper said he appreciates servicemembers' loyalty and doesn't "want to kick any airman out of the Air Force that wants to stay." Therefore, Jumper said, the Air Force plans to make its personnel cuts mostly through reductions in initial recruiting.
The Air Force general lauded Air Force Secretary James G. Roche, who announced his retirement Nov. 16. Jumper said he was impressed by Roche's concern for servicemembers, noting he's "never seen anyone that cared any more about the nation's airmen" than Roche has.
The Marine Corps, noted Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee, is a premier expeditionary force that's seen action in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Haiti during the past year.
Hagee thanked the committee and the rest of Congress for its support, noting legislative and public support of the Marines is "indispensable to our morale and our success." Yet, the recent success against insurgents in Fallujah hasn't come without human cost, the Marine general noted.
"We have lost over 45 Marines killed in action and over 350 wounded just in Fallujah," Hagee reported. A month ago, he said, a daily average of 23 Marines and sailors were receiving medical treatment at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Today, "there are over 100 receiving care there," he said.
Yet, Marines and their families "continue to strongly support our actions in the global war on terror," Hagee reported. "They firmly believe that we have an important mission," he said, and "they also believe that they are well- equipped, well-led, well-trained, and most importantly, have the backing of the American people."
U.S. Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Iraqi security forces "displayed bravery and courage, along with war-fighting acumen" during the "demanding and dangerous" Fallujah operation, Hagee declared.
Multiple deployments in recent years have challenged the Marines, Hagee acknowledged. "This demand is especially telling in the strain on our Marines, their families, and on our equipment and material stocks."
Even so, Marines continue to meet mission requirements, Hagee said, by employing a "Total Force" philosophy. "Since 9/11, we have activated approximately 95 percent of our selective Marine Corps Reserve units," he explained, noting the majority of these forces have "served in either Iraq or Afghanistan."
Like the other armed services, Hagee said, the Marines continue to meet their active duty recruiting and retention goals. However, he noted, Marine recruiters are finding themselves spending more time with prospects in order to sign them up.
Hagee reported his concern about accelerated wear and tear on Marine equipment deployed in the Middle East and other austere theaters of operation. He cited the experience of a Marine commander in Iraq who'd driven his 150 tactical vehicles 825,000 miles in conducting more than 700 convoy security missions during seven month's time.
"This usage equates to over 13 years of wear under normal conditions," Hagee pointed out.
To total up the cost of replacing or refitting equipment and to address other deployment issues, Hagee noted that the Marines, like the Army, have "completed an extensive review of our force structure."
As a result, Hagee said, the Marines have "made some important decisions" to better prepare the service to meet its global war on terror commitments "and to address rotational stress within the force."