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Chairman Starts Two-Day Trip to Visit Army Posts

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

FORT SILL, Okla., Oct. 23, 2007 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff today set off on a two-day trip to visit three Army installations, where he plans to talk to soldiers and gauge the stress levels caused by the service’s high operational tempo since the beginning of the war on terror.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answers questions at an all-hands call with students assigned to the Captains Career course at Fort Sill, Okla., Oct. 23, 2007. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

This is Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen’s first trip as chairman to Army posts within the United States, and a handful of informal question-and-answer sessions are planned with soldiers of all ranks here and at Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, both in Kansas.

Mullen also will stop at an Army recruiting conference in Denver, Colo. His wife, Deborah, is with him on the trip and will meet with soldiers’ families concurrently.

Second only to the war, the chairman said, his priority is resetting the force. This trip will allow him to personally hear concerns of the soldiers, he added.

The admiral’s first stop was here in southwest Oklahoma’s home of the Field Artillery, where he fielded questions from the Army and Marine students in the Captains Career Course and met with the branch chief, Army Maj. Gen. Peter M. Vangjel.

The chairman told them that the ground forces are the “center of gravity.” He promised no immediate answers, but took names and e-mail addresses and promised more detailed answers later.

Mullen fielded questions ranging from individual concerns, such as problems with local hospitals, to big-picture queries such as the long-term plans for a military presence in Iraq, but most were somehow related to quality of life.

The chairman conceded at the start of the session that ground forces, primarily provided by the Army, are tired.

“It’s very fragile ground right now that we’re on,” he said, made so as soldiers and leaders try to balance the demands of mission and training with those of the soldiers’ families.

“We’ve got to make sure we get it right for our people,” the chairman said.

This afternoon, Mullen will travel to Fort Leavenworth to talk with students in the Command and General Staff College, a graduate school for Army leaders, and then it’s on to Denver this evening for a reception with recruiters. Fort Leavenworth is home to the Army’s Combined Arms Center, a major subordinate headquarters of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, charged with directing leader development, professional military and civilian education and training, as well as preparing the service for transformation.

Tomorrow, Mullen will visit Fort Riley, where he will view military transition team training, have lunch with troops and visit soldier-patients at the post hospital. Fort Riley is home to the 1st Infantry Division, the Army’s oldest continuously serving division.

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Adm. Michael G. Mullen, USN

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