Mullen Thanks Fort Bragg Troops, Families for Service
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
FORT BRAGG, N.C., June 3, 2010 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen visited with soldiers and families here yesterday, praising their efforts and continued support over the past decade despite frequent deployments and strenuous combat missions.Video
“Thanks to you [and] thanks to your families,” Mullen said during the day’s first town hall with Special Forces soldiers. “We’ve asked you to do extraordinary things during extraordinary times in our history. Thanks for the sustained level of excellence, which, quite frankly, has just gotten better and better over time.”
Mullen and his wife Deborah met with Special Forces soldiers and spouses of fallen troops during a town hall and lunch held at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School here. He also held a town hall with 18th Airborne Corps soldiers at the Soldier Support Center building and visited troops recovering at Womack Army Medical Center.
“If you would’ve told me back in 2001 here’s what I’m going to do for the next 10 years at this rate, pace, this amount of time deployed, this amount of time not at home, and that we’d be in the good shape we’re in right now -- that’s a hill I would’ve had a real challenge climbing,” Mullen said. “But it speaks to you, it speaks to quality, it speaks to dedication, [and] it speaks to a generation that’s making a huge difference.”
Special Forces soldiers serve in more than 60 countries around the globe, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, the admiral acknowledged. Psychological operations, civil affairs and Special Forces troops, he said, are making a difference in preventing future conflicts by partnering with other nations and advancing their governments through military training and assistance.
“More than anything else, I just want to express my appreciation for your service [and] the difference that you’ve made protecting and supporting our national interests,” the admiral added.
Mullen assured troops that the heavy operations tempo soldiers and Marines have experienced over the past nine years will soon slow down. Roughly since 2003, soldiers have been deploying at a 1-to-1 ratio of one year deployed and one year at home, while Marines have operated under a seven-month cycle.
Those same forces can look forward to a 1-to-2 rotational cycle, giving troops twice as much time at home with their families, while they train to keep their skills sharp between deployments, he said.
“Over the next couple of years, the pace will slow down a bit,” Mullen said. “We’re moving toward being home twice as long as we’ve been deployed. With the growth of the Army … we should be able to make this [operations tempo] work within the next couple of years.”
However, Mullen emphasized that troops should still expect to deploy. He explained that conventional forces would be able to reset and train for their traditional military missions, while also preparing for counterinsurgency missions.
As Mullen and other senior leaders look to the future of the military, their hope is that conventional forces will have the time to focus on nation building efforts and renewing military partnerships with other militaries, much the way the Special Forces community does, he told the 18th Airborne Corps soldiers.
“One of the things I do have to spend some time on is looking into the future,” he said. “What does our military look like? What will our missions be? What will our skill sets be? What are our education requirements?
Mullen urged the troops to improve their cultural awareness and language skills and to explore other areas of military importance, such as cyber space.
The admiral noted recent incidents and initiatives around the world, such as North Korea’s alleged sinking of a South Korean ship, relief efforts in Haiti and nation building in Africa. Troops need to continuously be prepared for irregular warfare, he said.
“We’re going to continue to be about change,” the admiral said. “It can be as difficult an undertaking as any. We will continue to focus on irregular warfare and move away from conventional warfare.
“I’m confident we can do that,” he continued. “And even after these wars, there will be tremendous challenges out there. We are evolving. There are very few military solutions alone.”
Mullen follows his Fort Bragg visit with stops in Charleston, S.C., today and Fort Benning, Ga., June 4 where he will meet with more troops and military families.