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Nominees for Army Chief, Special Ops Command Face Senate Hearing

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2003 – Nominees to lead two important leadership positions faced tough questions concerning present troops strength in Iraq, lengths of deployments and the stress those deployments are having on service members and their families today.

Retired Army General Peter J. Schoomaker and Lt. Gen. Bryan D. Brown testified during confirmation hearings July 29 with the Senate Armed Services Committee. Schoomaker is expected to become the next Army Chief of Staff, while Brown would head the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Schoomaker said he would travel to both Afghanistan and Iraq at the earliest possible date as a part of assessing the Army's size and commitments. "It's clear that my instincts tell me that there are things I need to look at," he said.

"I think that this isn't just an issue of end strength. It's an issue of fundamental organization," Schoomaker continued. "And the fact of the matter is we will be in Iraq a long time creating the environment there for it to be able to transition to the peace and the kind of stable nation that's able to operate within the kind of values we'd like to see it operate."

"And it's going to require a presence there. And that presence, I think, as you've seen, is going to start transitioning to other (nations') friends that will help us do that," he explained.

Schoomaker also told the committee that he expected the Army to face a demanding future. "We spent most of our lives sleeping on cardboard boxes and MRE (meals ready to eat) cases on cold, hard floors and dirt all over this world, and spent a lot more days away from our beds than we spent in our beds, and our families have grown up doing this -- and I'm talking about the two of us that are sitting up here. We're just like everybody else," he explained.

"The thing that has always amazed me is the resilience of the Army family and of soldiers when they face a tough challenge," Schoomaker said.

"And I bring this up because we cannot offer everybody certainty about what the future is. It's a very ambiguous future that we look into, and we ought to be very careful about what expectations we give people," he said. "And I think that the most difficult part of this is when we give people expectations that we can't meet, it makes it much more difficult than it does telling people that we have a tough job to do, and we are going to have to hang in here together to do it."

Schoomaker said he's "very confident from my own experience and from what I know about the great people we've got in the Army, that our soldiers and their families continue to be very dedicated servants to this nation, and I think that we can work this and we can sort it, and I think we will continue to get great service from them."

Brown touched on increasing the numbers of special operations troops to meet worldwide commitments. He noted that operations in Afghanistan and Iraq called for the largest-ever deployment of special operations forces. "At one time we had over 14,000 SOF folks deployed out of a force structure of about 47,000. So SOF was integral on this battlefield."

He said the "No. 1 lesson learned and the most important thing about both Afghanistan and Iraq" was that it proved the saying in special operations that "humans are more important than hardware. And it proved again that the ability to attract, recruit, assess, train and retain special operating forces is critical to the success of SOF on this battlefield and any other one."

Brown said he thought the standing request for 5,100 more special operations forces "looks good."

"I can tell you that the performance of the special operations forces that you've seen today and that all of us are so proud of is a return on an investment of over a quarter-century of transformation of those forces," noted Schoomaker, whose last active-duty job was to head Special Operations Command.

He told the committee he would continue transformation efforts throughout the Army based on efforts by his predecessors. "I think on my watch I'm going to have to stand on their shoulders as we go forward and do the kinds of things that I can bring to the table on it. So it's a long-term thing," he noted.

He observed that he thinks about transformation as "always in motion" by both current and future forces. "Where we're working the hardest is at the intersection, the overlap of those two, where we are bringing technologies and we're bringing concepts and we're bringing organizations and doctrine together to get the most out of our current force and leverage the kinds of things that we see as we go to the future and organize ourselves and think appropriately about the kinds of things that we're going to be asked to do. And so it's a daunting challenge and it's one that, you know, is not going to happen over a weekend."

Schoomaker said one of the first things discussed between him and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was the reported tension between DoD and the former Army leadership.

"I'm convinced, through our discussions and our subsequent dealings, that we have an open and candid dialogue and that we have come to an arrangement where we can agree to disagree and at the same time understand what the chain of command is," he explained. "And I'm very comfortable that he's going to hold to his word, and I know I'll hold to mine."

Schoomaker's active duty career extended over 31 years. Since retiring in 2000, he has been both teaching and mentoring within the Army, including being on the adjunct faculty at the School for Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Brown is currently the deputy commander of the United States Special Operations Command.

 

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