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Morale, Sense of Accomplishment High, Enlisted Leaders Report

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar, March 25, 2005 – Morale is high among troops deployed to Southwest Asia in support of the global war on terror, but many feel frustrated that the American public isn't hearing about the positive work they're doing, senior enlisted leaders from U.S. Central Command told the American Forces Press Service here today.

The senior enlisted members of U.S. Central Command, Multinational Force Iraq and Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, with 97 years of military service among them, said troops here understand their mission and feel good about what they're accomplishing.

"To a person, nobody has ever said, 'I don't understand why I came here," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Cynthia A. Pritchett from Combined Forces Command Afghanistan. "They feel they're bringing a sense of hope and giving the country a future. They can see the fruit of their labor, but feel that the story doesn't get out at home."

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger from Multinational Force Iraq agreed. "If there's a common theme to the complaints I routinely hear, it's that nobody knows how well we're doing," he said. "The story of what's being done is not getting out."

The two leaders ticked off a laundry list of accomplishments in their respective operating areas: national elections in both Afghanistan and Iraq, progress on the reconstruction front from road projects to new schools, and inroads made in paving a better future for people who have long lived under oppression.

And the reserve components, which they described as a seamless part of the forces here, are bringing talents not typically found in military units - experience in farming, business and civil works, among other specialties.

Servicemembers here "feel a real sense that they are accomplishing something," said Pritchett.

The noncommissioned officers acknowledged that the war on terror has placed new challenges on the force. Even the most junior troops, they said, are finding themselves in positions where the decisions they make can have international and strategic implications.

"This is not just a military fight," said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Curtis Brownhill, command chief master sergeant for U.S. Central Command. "It's a political issue as well as a military issue, and the actions of one soldier can have a regional effect."

And that, the NCOs agreed, requires servicemembers with attributes like those troops here are demonstrating. They're worldly, informed about current events and, unlike during the days when the NCOs entered the military, they're not afraid to ask the reasons behind the orders they're given.

"I grew up in an Army that didn't ask 'why,'" Pritchett said.

"But ... it's OK to ask why now, because they need to know why," Brownhill said. "They need to understand the implications behind what they're doing."

"(Troops here) know their craft," Mellinger agreed. "But it's also important that they know the potential impacts - favorable or unfavorable - of what they're doing."

With these new demands and responsibilities, the NCOs said, today's servicemembers are demonstrating strong initiative as well. "They do a lot of things without being asked," said Mellinger. "They just look and see something and say, 'Hey, I can make this better.'"

Brownhill called the troops waging the war on terror a testament to the success of the all-volunteer force. "This is the best force we've ever fielded," he said. "They understand the mission, and they're committed to it."

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, instilled a renewed sense of patriotism that's reflected in today's armed forces, Pritchett said. "These young people want to give back and be part of something greater than themselves," she said.

"I bust at the seams looking at these troops," said Mellinger. "You just have to feel good about what you're looking at. ... They're doing fabulous work, day in and day out."

When they finish their deployments and leave the theater, Pritchett said, servicemembers take with them the satisfaction of knowing they've playing an important role in an important mission.

"The greatest reward they take with them is the knowledge that 'I made a difference,'" she said.

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