Myers Tells Students About War, Operations and Public Service
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 5, 2004 The nation's top military officer discussed the global war on terror and operations in Haiti, and pitched public service to members of the U.S. Senate Youth Program today.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers spoke to high school seniors and juniors visiting the Pentagon from all the states, the District of Columbia and the DoD overseas schools and then took their questions.
Myers told the students that if they don't think the war on terror is an important endeavor, they need to "do more research."
The issue with terrorism is fear, he said. "If you are afraid, then you don't act in logical and rational ways. And if you don't act in logical or rational ways, this democracy that we live in could be in danger."
It isn't readily apparent that the United States is at war, Myers said. People go about their daily business and you're almost not aware that this threat is out there," he said.
But it is. In Iraq, the enemy has taken to killing its own people. The bombings in Baghdad and Karbala were to work of Muslim extremists killing fellow Muslims, Myers pointed out. "If they could do it with biological weapons, or nuclear weapons or radiological weapons, they would," he said.
Myers told the students that the U.S.-led Multinational Interim Force is in Haiti to lay the groundwork for a return to democracy. He said the force has calmed the capital, and rebels and former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's followers are allowing life to return to normal. There are currently about 1,000 U.S. Marines in Haiti. France has about 450 service members and gendarmes in the country, Canada has about 60 service members, and Chile has 130 soldiers in Port-au-Prince.
Myers said the United Nations is sending an assessment team to Haiti next week and that team will return to New York with its recommendations. He said there will probably be another U.N. Security Council resolution calling for peacekeepers in the country, and once those peacekeepers arrive, the U.S. troops in Haiti will probably pull out.
Myers, who has served 39 years in the Air Force, also spoke of the importance of public service. "You are at that point in your lives where you have lots of choices about what directions you take," he said.
The chairman asked the students to consider public service as they consider their futures. He warned the students to not believe they have their lives already planned out. "Life is way too interesting to think you can plan it out and not be swayed by what you learn and feel and touch," Myers said.
The chairman told the students it is important to be involved in America. "This democracy does not run on autopilot," he said. "If it did, it would crash and burn and we would no longer be a democracy. It is a very fragile thing."
Myers said that when he entered the military in 1965, he intended to fulfill his five-year obligation and get out. "So why do you stay for 39 years"" he asked. "It's because every day you get up and you think, 'What could I do that would be more interesting and, frankly, more fun than this.' And the answer I gave myself was, 'nothing.' I get to hang out with people that are really motivated, interesting and focused on the same mission."
He told them that people don't go into public service for the pay. He said there is more to life and work than money. "As you go through your life decisions, one of the questions you should ask others is how fulfilled they are in their careers," he said. "You ought to think about what's going to fulfill you and who you want to be hanging around with when you are 35."
While Myers believes public service is important, he doesn't believe there ought to be a return to the draft. In answer to a question, Myers said the military is making all recruiting goals, and the country has had such success with the all-volunteer force.
But it is important that people from all segments of American society serve. "It's important that the U.S. military is in touch with the American people," he said.
The U.S. Senate Youth Program operates under legislation passed by the Senate. It has been operating for 42 years. Funded by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the program brings two students from each state, the District of Columbia and DoD overseas schools to the nation's capital. The students meet with leaders in all branches of the federal government. This year's group met with President Bush, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and Senate members, among others.
The two students from the DoD schools are Cathleen Joy Cauguiran, the student body president at Matthew Perry High School in Iwakuni, Japan; and Kerry Ann Yudiski, the student body president at David Farragut High School in Rota, Spain.
State boards of education or their equivalents choose the students. Each receives a $5,000 scholarship.