New Chairman Thanks Troops, Families for Service, Sacrifice
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2007 The military’s new top officer thanked troops and their families for their service and sacrifice, and he told them their efforts are “vital” to national security interests.
“Whether you serve in Baghdad or Bagram, Kabul or Kuwait -- whether you find yourself at sea in the Pacific, flying support missions over Europe, on the ground in Africa, or working every day at stateside bases -- you are making a difference and so is every person in your family,” Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen wrote in an open letter to servicemembers released today.
“Your service matters. And I do not take it for granted,” he added.
Mullen, who served as the chief of naval operations before becoming chairman, acknowledged that fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq is placing great demands on the U.S. military, but he said achieving success on those fronts is vital to U.S. national security interests.
“I know the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking a toll on you and your families,” Mullen wrote. “They are taking a toll on our equipment, our systems, and our ability to train as well. I worry, quite frankly, that they are taking a toll on our readiness for other threats in other places.”
However, the admiral emphasized that the Afghan and Iraq conflicts “most certainly are important and constitute vital endeavors to the interests of the United States.
“To the degree the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan contribute to or detract from a stable, secure Middle East, they bear a direct effect on the security of the United States. That is why my number-one priority will be developing a comprehensive strategy to defend our national interests in the region,” Mullen wrote.
Today, Mullen succeeds Marine Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The admiral wrote that he is honored to become the military’s top officer, and he thanked U.S. servicemembers deployed worldwide in the fight against terrorism.
The world remains a dangerous place since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, Mullen wrote, noting that hundreds of thousands of U.S. servicemembers have been deployed to fight overseas-based terrorists, many more than once.
Yet, military members ably answered the call to duty and stood up to those dangers as they fought overseas terrorists, Mullen wrote.
“You have lost friends to them. You may even have lost some of yourself to them. The dangers of this new and uncertain era have hit you and the people you love squarely in the gut. I will not lose sight of that,” Mullen vowed.
Yet, servicemembers should not lose sight of the need to continue serving as the war against terrorism continues, Mullen wrote.
“The enemies we face, from radical jihadists to regional powers with nuclear ambitions, directly and irrefutably threaten our vital national interests. They threaten our very way of life,” the admiral pointed out.
America’s military members are a strong shield against those who wish to do harm to the United States and its people, Mullen wrote.
“You are the sentinels of freedom,” Mullen told servicemembers. “You signed up, took an oath, made a promise to defend something larger than yourselves. And then you went out and did it. I am grateful and honored, to be able to serve alongside you.”
Mullen said his main duty as JCS chairman is to advise President Bush, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the National Security Council on issues of military readiness and capabilities.
Mullen also pledged to servicemembers that he’ll serve as an advocate for what matters to them and their families. “I will not forget the impact my decisions have on you,” he said.
America’s military servicemembers “comprise a great generation of patriots,” Mullen observed, many who are combat veterans with hard-won and valuable battlefield experience. “I will tap that experience. I want to make sure we learn from it,” Mullen wrote.
He said the next item on his to-do list as JCS chairman is resetting, reconstituting and revitalizing America’s armed forces, especially the Army and Marine Corps, which have performed the bulk of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I believe our ground forces are the center of gravity for the all-volunteer force and that we need to make sure that force is correctly shaped and sized, trained, and equipped to defend the nation,” the admiral stated.
Mullen also plans to balance strategic risk in view of America’s global security commitments, warfighting capabilities, resources and partnerships needed to conduct operations during peace and war.
“The demands of current operations, however great, should not dominate our training exercises, education curricula, and readiness programs,” Mullen wrote. “The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will one day end. We must be ready for who and what comes after.”
And, everyone’s help will be needed in the years ahead, Mullen pointed out.
“The speed of war, the pace of change, is too great for any of us to manage it alone,” the admiral wrote. “I need your help, your ideas, and your input. Whenever I travel to the field and to the fleet, I expect you to tell me what’s on your mind. Tell me what you think. I need your constant feedback. I can’t succeed -- we can’t succeed -- without it.”
America’s military members vowed to defend the United States when they entered the armed forces, observed Mullen, who then offered an additional, personal pledge to servicemembers.
“I will listen to you. I will learn from you. And, I will endeavor to lead always with your best interest at heart,” Mullen wrote. “The way I see it, that is my job now.”