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Look Out for, Communicate Troops’ Needs, Gates Tells Senior NCOs

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

FORT BLISS, Texas, May 1, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called on senior Army noncommissioned officers to be his eyes and ears in the field and to ensure systems within the Defense Department to support the troops are working.

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates speaks with students at the Army Sergeants Major Academy at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas, May 1, 2008. Defense Dept. photo by Cherie Cullen

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“From my vantage point, you are in the best position of anybody to give a sense, up and down the chain of command, of how things are going -- which programs are working, which aren’t, and what else can be done,” Gates told Army master sergeants, first sergeants and sergeants major attending the Army Sergeants Major Academy here.

“I hope you will continue to listen to your men and women and advocate for them in the strongest possible manner possible,” he said.

Gates told the soldiers of Class 58, which graduates May 22, that he will continue to seek the candid advice and counsel of enlisted troops at all levels and will continue his regular lunches with every service’s senior enlisted advisor. And while he’s seeking to hear from them, Gates said, he hopes the NCOs will serve as his conduit to the troops so they know the Defense Department is working to support them.

Gates said he shares soldiers’ frustration over past mistakes and the pace of improvements. “Things happen too slowly. It takes too long for decisions made at the Pentagon to get implemented on posts and bases,” he said. But as he pushes to break through red tape and bureaucracy, Gates said, he’s looking to senior enlisted leaders to let troops in the field know about changes to come.

“You are also in the best position to make it clear, down the chain, that the department is actively engaged in trying to work to improve the quality of life for our servicemen and women,” he said. “This is a critical point that all of our troops need to know if we are to maintain the morale of the force in the years to come and if we are to continue to recruit the best and brightest America has to offer.”

Gates urged the senior NCOs to ensure soldiers know he recognizes and appreciates their service.

“I hope you will express to them that I am aware of how much has been sacrificed,” he said. “And I consider it my solemn duty to do right by the men and women who risk their lives for our country every day.”

The Army Sergeants Major Academy is the top rung in the Army’s enlisted professional military education system, and focuses on turning senior NCOs into leaders. The nine-month course prepares new and prospective sergeants major for duties as senior NCOs in positions throughout the Defense Department and allied nation’s forces.

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Robert M. Gates

Related Sites:
U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy

Related Articles:
Defense Secretary Affirms Commitment to Quality-of-Life Issues
Gates Asks Senior NCOs to Encourage Troops to Seek Mental Health Care

Click photo for screen-resolution imageA student asks Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates a question during the secretary's visit to the Army Sergeants Major Academy at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas, May 1, 2008. Defense Dept. photo by Cherie Cullen   
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