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Top Leaders Brief Civilian Visitors About Military Issues, Challenges

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2007 – Senior military and defense leaders briefed members of the Defense Orientation Conference Association today on the global war on terror and other challenges facing the military.

About 55 members of the group -- a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to national defense issues -- began a three-day meeting today at the Pentagon. The session will continue over the next two days at the State Department and National Defense University, at Fort McNair here.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, kicked off today’s session, followed by Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Army Secretary Pete Geren. Other speakers included Vice Adm. John G. Cotton, Navy Reserve Force commander; Lt. Gen. Richard S. Kramlich, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for installations and logistics; and Vice Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr., Coast Guard chief of staff.

Three members of the “Why We Serve program,” all combat veterans who are crisscrossing the country to share their experiences, also talked to the group. They were Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy DeVries, Marine 1st Lt. David Bradt and Marine Sgt. Daniel Alvarado.

John Stahr, the group’s president, praised today’s presenters for providing straight, unfiltered facts about what’s taking place in the military. “If we are going to be effective citizens, we need to know what’s going on and make up our own minds,” not have it filtered through the media or politicians, he said.

“This gives our members a better understanding of what current challenges and issues are facing the Department of Defense,” said David Morris, the group’s executive vice president. Defense Orientation Conference Association members will take what they’ve learned here and share it with broader audiences in their communities, he said.

Many of today’s participants, including Rebecca Smith, DOCA’s southeast region director, are alumni of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference. That program, sponsored by the defense secretary, has been helping U.S. business, civic and academic leaders expand their knowledge of military and national defense programs since 1948.

DOCA offers an opportunity to build on the JCOC experience, Smith said. Members get “fantastic access” to leaders who share the full range of issues and challenges facing the Defense Department and military services, she said. “We get real-life explanations with real-life conditions … and tremendous insight into how our unified military works together.”

Stahr said the Washington session will give members “a basis of learning what is going on currently and what we can do individually to help.”

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