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Release No: 432-96
July 16, 1996

Defense Secretary William Perry Remarks to the Naval Senior Enlisted Academy

Remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry

To the Naval Senior Enlisted Academy, Newport, R.I.

Wednesday, July 10, 1996

It's great to be with you this morning. I just returned a few days ago from an overseas trip, a very sad day in Dhahran, where I met with the survivors of the bomb blast over there and discussed with our leadership and with the Saudi government actions that we can take to catch and punish the bombers and to enhance the security of our forces.

Then, I also spent three days with our forces in Bosnia and Hungary, and I spent a day with the fleet in the Mediterranean and visited three of the ships there in the GEORGE WASHINGTON battle group. This trip was organized by Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, John Hagan. We spent most of our time on the ships meeting and talking with the enlisted personnel and with the NCOs.

This is one of seven or eight such trips that I've taken since I've become the Secretary of Defense by having the senior enlisted of each of the services organize a trip. [The trips are] service specific except that all the senior enlisted come with us to give them a chance to see what kind of problems [each service has] and how they're dealing with those problems.

It also gives them a chance to exchange views on issues and problems facing our military personnel. It's not just show and tell. It's focused around action. And as the senior enlisted learn about the problems, we then have a hot-wash on the plane ride home. We try to decide what the hell to do about [the problems]. Out of those visits, out of those discussions, have come plans for action, have come action, have come new legislation, have come changes in the budget -- all of which are [designed] to try to make the services a better place to work and to live.

[We do] this not simply because we are soft-hearted. Nothing like that. It's because we believe that to have a high quality, ready, highly effective military force, we simply have to pay attention to these issues. The reason we have such a high quality military force today, is, first of all, because we attract the right people. Secondly, because we train them properly. And, third, because we retain them. In order to retain them, we have to have interesting jobs. That's where we have an edge on almost any alternative job you can find. Military service has the most interesting jobs, the most challenging jobs in the world.

But along with [interesting work] is the quality of life; we have to pay attention to that too. If we really want to get the benefit of our training, we have to retain the people that we've trained. And therefore, we have to have a decent quality of life. So, in my assessment of the quality of [our] military forces, the attention to quality of life is the key to retaining [people], and therefore, the key to getting the full benefit of our training so that we will have a high quality force on into the future.

When I visited the carrier battle group GEORGE WASHINGTON , [one of our stops was on] an oiler ship, the MERRIMACK. As we were leaving the MERRIMACK, putting on our life preservers before we got on the helicopter, I stopped and talked with Yeoman Second Class Riley. I was deeply impressed with her knowledge, not just of her job on the ship, but what the whole battle group was all about. She gave me a very professional briefing on what the GEORGE WASHINGTON was doing on this mission, why it was important, why it made a difference to our national security.

This is a sign of real leadership [aboard that ship and] in that battle group; and of a strong chain of command from the captain to the seamen. They know the mission, they know the purpose. All of that builds unit cohesion, a sense of ownership, and a belief that each sailor makes a difference. [To paraphrase] Oliver Cromwell: Sailors fight better when they know what they are fighting for.

The GEORGE WASHINGTON battle group is making a difference. I was very impressed to see what they had done in their six month deployment. We were visiting them just as they were concluding their deployment. They deterred an aggressor in the Gulf as part of what we call Southern Watch [operations]. They conducted naval exercises with NATO allies. They had swung over to the Arabian Gulf in a crisis earlier this year.

We had determined that we had a crisis near Taiwan [with the Chinese conducting threatening military exercises], and that we needed to have two carrier battle groups near Taiwan and quickly. One of [the carriers] was nearby which was the one we ordinarily station in Japan. There wasn't any other carrier battle group near. The closest one was the NIMITZ which was in the Arabian Gulf. So, we redeployed the NIMITZ to come over to Taiwan. The GEORGE WASHINGTON, in the meantime, was patrolling in the Med. We did not want to leave the Arabian Gulf open, so we redeployed the GEORGE WASHINGTON to the Arabian Gulf. All of that was crucial in dealing with the security issues which we were facing at that time. This shows the flexibility and the readiness of our battle groups. And it also showed me that our leaders and our sailors on those ships knew what the mission was, knew how important it was, and felt that what they were doing was making a difference.

After I left the battle group, I went on to visit our troops in Hungary and in Bosnia. Hungary is where we replenish and supply our forces from in Bosnia. We have a few thousand troops there doing that and then we have almost 20,000 in Bosnia. I spent the 4th of July with our forces in Bosnia. We are at the halfway point in the NATO's IFOR mission. That mission is there to carry out the agreement called the Dayton Agreement which spelled out the terms for having a peace in Bosnia.

It's a very unusual situation in that military forces were sent there to carry out a mission spelled out in about four or five pages in a peace agreement. We have accomplished -- and on schedule -- every task spelled out in that Dayton Agreement. We have separated the warring parties and created a zone of separation. We have seen all of the weapons moved out of the zones of separation and moved back into cantonments. Transfer of the territory has been done and we have maintained security and stability of that country the full six months we've been there.

As a result, we have had six months of peace in Bosnia. And to see how far we've come, just think back one year ago [to] what was happening in Bosnia. What was happening was something called Srebrenica -- a massacre was taking place in which we believe several thousand people were killed. Of the U.N. forces that were there to keep the peace, 11 of them were shackled to pieces of equipment of the Serbs so that no air action [could be] taken [against the Bosnian Serbs]. The U.N. was humiliated. NATO was helpless. That's where we were a year ago.

We moved from there to something called the London Conference. [There] the Western powers agreed for the first time on the action that was being promoted by the United States, [namely] to move [against the Bosnian Serbs] with robust NATO air action -- first of all, to stop those atrocities, and then, to force the situation into a peace conference. That happened in the latter half of last year and it culminated in the Dayton Agreement.

So, in six months we went from the massacre of Srebrenica to a peace agreement. Even when we had the peace agreement, some [made the] forecast that we would not be able to enforce it. I testified the month before we went into Bosnia and all during that testimony I heard criticism over and over again that when we got into Bosnia, we would meet fierce armed resistance from the Bosnia Serbs; that we would be in a war when we got there; and that our troops would be attacked and would find themselves in the middle of a real shooting war.

That has not happened. One of the reasons it has not happened is because we went in heavy. We probably sent in more forces than we needed. We probably had them more heavily armed than they needed to be and we had very robust rules of engagement. For six months now we've had peace.

Now people are saying why did you go in so heavy? Why did you have these robust rules of engagement? You didn't need them after all. If [going in heavy] was an error, that's the side that I would like to always err on. My own belief is that [the reason] that we did not meet armed resistance simply had to do with the fact that nobody felt like messing with that force -- and they still don't.

After we were there a few months, the critics then said, Well, in the last four springs, there's been a spring offensive. Sure, the fighting took a lull in the winter, but this spring, there will be a spring offensive again, and then you'll see the fighting. What happened this spring was that for the first time in four years the Bosnians went out and planted the fields. I flew over the country on the 3rd and the 4th of July, over some hundreds of square miles. And everywhere I could see down there, I could see the spring planting coming up. They will have a bumper crop in Bosnia this harvest time. That's very important, because we want the people there to have an equity in sustaining the peace. The way they get that [equity] is to see a future for themselves.

We still have six months to go. Many challenges remain. In fact, in many ways I believe the next few months are going to be the most difficult we have had since we have gone into Bosnia. The reason for that is that the civil aspects of the Dayton Agreement call for actions over the next few months which inevitably are going to cause turbulence in the country. Whether it be the resettling of refugees, the arresting of war criminals, the conducting of elections -- all of those factors are going to challenge the IFOR to maintain peace in the face of very substantial turbulence.

The key to success during the second half of this year, the second half of the IFOR mission, is force protection. During my visit to Bosnia I spent most of my time focusing on what we are doing for force protection. All of you are familiar with force protection in a naval context -- decoys, electronic jamming, personal protective gear, all the training that you get to deal with damage control.

In Bosnia [today], just as people criticize us for going in too heavy, now they are also criticizing us for being too careful. I was there with one of our brigades on the 4th of July, and two-thirds of that brigade were having a picnic, having a wonderful time. Where was the other one-third? They were on guard duty. We have one battalion for every brigade, one company for every battalion always on guard duty. I went out to visit the guards. They all had on their flak jackets, their helmets, and all [were] armed, all were ready for anything that might happen.

Anytime they leave the compound, they go [at least] four vehicles to a convoy. If they are in a dangerous area, they carry loaded weapons all the time. They are driving over very difficult and dangerous terrain with mines everywhere they go. They are not allowed to go into the town to fraternize. That's too bad. It many ways it would be better for our civilian objectives if they could. Because our soldiers, sailors and airmen are the best diplomats the country has. [But] we just consider this a force protection issue. And, one really serious [force protection issue] is the no alcohol policy. They have been there for six months and haven't had a beer. They are pretty damn unhappy about that. [But again], it is a force protection issue.

I discussed the [alcohol issue] with General Nash and General Joulwan, and they said, no alcohol. I saw the statistics by the way. In that first six months in Bosnia, somebody compared it with similar statistics of the previous six months of that force in Germany. And it turns out that they have been healthier and safer in the six months in Bosnia than they had been in the previous six months in Germany.

There is also a personal element to force protection. And when I met with our troops in Bosnia, I tried to convey the personal dimensions as well. The first dimension is, never be complacent. In some ways, they are reaching the most dangerous period. And because they have had six months of security and stability, [where] they are not meeting resistance [and where they are] taking care of themselves; because for six months [they have been] so effective, there is a danger they will become complacent in the last part of the mission.

And the second personal dimension of force protection is, take care of each other. This taking care of each other is an integral part of our military's force protection package. I saw that very vividly, and very effectively when I was in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. I visited the clinic there that treated the people who were wounded in the bomb blast. I talked to the doctor who had treated many of them. He himself had been wounded. He got some glass in the chest. And the head of the clinic told me that he had seen this doctor bandaging a patient while somebody was bandaging him. [That is] taking care of each other.

They also told me that of the 200 people that went into that clinic, not one of them came in alone. Each of them was brought in by a buddy. And each one of the buddies had already applied some preliminary treatment before they got in there. The buddy system works. When you are in a crisis, when you are in a difficult situation, training which includes training of the buddy system will pay off. As NCOs you must ensure that the sailors in your commands internalize all of these facets of force protection. Let's make sure that everyone takes it seriously. And you must set your own example of caring.

I have seen the care and the dedication and the pride of our sailors most recently just a few days ago. I am proud of what I have seen. I am proud to be their Secretary of Defense. But I also understand that this quality and this spirit does not come automatically. It is the result of leadership. Leadership counts. That is why you are here.

The Navy has always depended on leadership. In some sense more than the other services, because the Navy is on deployment three, six, and nine months [out of the year]. Particularly in the days before there was radio communications, everything depended on the leadership on the ship. And for centuries, the way the Navy developed leadership was twofold. First of all, picking the right people. Leadership is a quality. So you want to pick the people who have that quality to the highest degree. And then secondly, get them to experience a leadership [role]. And in the Navy that happens primarily [when a ship is] under deployment. That's the history of leadership development in the Navy.

If you take those two qualities that I talked about, you can enhance them. And you can enhance them with education and training. This academy is dedicated to the belief that you can take people who are leaders to begin with and who have [leadership] experience in the fleet, and you can develop those qualities in them. You can make them better leaders.

I have said [before], and I truly believe, that we have the best damn Navy in the world. There is no question about that. That is not arm-waving, that is not flag-waving. That's just a statement of objective fact. We have great ships, great airplanes, great submarines, great mess halls. All of those are important. But really, what gives our Navy its competitive edge, this distinctive advantage, is its leadership. Especially [our NCOs]. There is nothing like our NCO Corps in any other Navy in the world.

You are the future leaders of the Navy. This course is intended to bring out those leadership qualities to the maximum. And you are not only the future leaders of the Navy, you are the future of this great Navy that we have. God bless you.

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