GEN. HAM: Well, for those of you who I've not met, I'm Carter Ham, and I'm currently the commander of U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army, based in Heidelberg, Germany. And what -- and I appreciate you all taking the time this afternoon in a day when there's lots of other news being made in other places that's very important to our nation.
As you might suspect, I'm a little bit selfish, and I think the U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army is important for the nation as well.
So what I'd like to do is just give you just a couple of quick comments and then see what kind of questions you may have and talk about the things that we're trying to accomplish in Europe.
A couple of top priorities for us:
Mission number one, not surprisingly, is to provide properly trained and equipped forces for global operations.
Principally, that means of about the -- we have about 42,000 soldiers assigned in Europe right now and at any one time about one-third of those are deployed, mostly to Iraq and Afghanistan but also to Kosovo and other locations. Important is -- we are currently in the process of rotating the Kosovo force between a unit based out of the Missouri National Guard being replaced by a unit out of the California Army National Guard, both of whom are doing very, very well.
We also provide some capabilities to Southern European Task Force, which most of you know is relatively recently designated as U.S. Army Africa, but he has no forces assigned. So there are some capabilities that U.S. Army Europe provides to U.S. Army Africa to help AFRICOM accomplish their missions.
Our second mission is building partnership capacity. We've talked a lot about that over previous years. That's a real and vital mission for us. In fact, the one thing -- I'd been gone from Europe about 10 years before I went back last -- having left in 1999. And going back in 2008, the first thing that struck me as a major difference was how just about everything we do has a multinational flavor to it. That's a significant change from when I was there previously. We do a lot of operations with our Bulgarian and Romanian counterparts. We've got a major training scheme set up for this coming summer that is larger in scale than it has been in previous years, and we think that's an important consideration.
We also do a lot of multinational training at our training center at Hohenfels, Germany. We train Operational Mentoring Liaison Teams for Afghanistan. Many of you know that we have a U.S. Army Europe unit that is embedded as part of a Romanian task force in Zabul province. That's been ongoing for a couple of years now. That's a great partnership. And we also conduct the Regional Command-South headquarters mission rehearsal exercise in Germany. And that went pretty well as -- last summer.
Third mission is the internal mission, and that is to transform U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army from the legacy days of when I was -- when I was growing up of U.S. Army Europe being the major headquarters in Europe to now becoming a Joint Task Force-capable headquarters. And the mission that European Command has given us is to be prepared to assume JTF responsibilities for any land-centric operations in the EUCOM AOR.
That's a pretty significant undertaking for us.
We have our certification exercise coming up in April and May. A part of transformation is, what's the right force posture in Europe to meet the missions that we've been assigned by European Command? I think, again, most of you know the current plan is -- we're at about 42,000; by about 2013 or '14, the current plan is that we would get to 32,000, based principally on two brigade combat teams, one Stryker and one airborne, that we'd retain in Europe. The current -- there are also presently two heavy brigade combat teams. Those are currently scheduled to come back to CONUS in 2012 and 2013.
One of the first things I did upon arrival was try to do a -- resourced a mission analysis. And I've recommended to my operational boss, General Craddock, commander of European Command, that we revisit those decisions. And it is my estimation that in order to accomplish the missions that we have, we need a different force posture in Europe than is currently proposed. And we can talk about that a bit if you'd like to.
Fourth mission that I'll talk about, of the many missions that we have, is how U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army will support whatever decisions are made with regard to missile defense in Europe. I won't be the operational commander of any missile-defense operations, but I will have a large support and sustaining requirement, so, in conjunction with European command and the Missile Defense Agency, working very closely to see how -- whatever those decisions are that may result in U.S. missile-defense forces being postured in the Czech Republic or Poland or other places, that we're prepared from an Army standpoint to support and sustain those forces through their deployment.
In all of that -- and there's lots of other missions, obviously, other than those four that I've highlighted -- one of the key cornerstones is that, in my view, the U.S. Army presence in Europe is the visible commitment of the U.S.'s commitment to the NATO alliance and to our European allies. So I think it is important. It is a very different mission today than the one that I grew up with as a younger officer, but I believe it is nonetheless important for our security.
That was bore out -- borne out a couple of weeks ago. I had the opportunity to attend the Munich Security Conference, and the vice president and others spoke to that. And it seems to me that there is a desire to stay engaged with our European allies, and one of the ways to do so is militarily. And again, not surprisingly, I have some interest in the Army's role in all that.
So that's all I had in terms of kind of laying out for you what we're doing today in Europe. And I'd be glad to take any questions you may have.
Q You mentioned the fact that you thought the United States needed a different force posture than what's currently planned in Europe for the U.S. Army. Could you now give us some, like, figures of what your assessment is? And do you think that the increasing need for forces in Afghanistan is playing in your favor?
GEN. HAM: If -- let me take the second question first.
We all are aware of the request by General McKiernan for additional forces for Afghanistan. We're also aware that that's under consideration here. And at some point those decisions will be made as to whether additional forces and how many and what type will -- and what timelines would deploy.
There's almost certain to be some impact of that in Europe.
We don't know what that is just yet. But as those decisions are made, then we'll continue to again provide training for the forces that need to go.
There is -- it's an interesting challenge for us, because most of our forces in Europe are presently deploying back and forth to Iraq. So if we're going to change that, and some are going to deploy to Afghanistan, there are some modifications to the training that we would need to do, in terms of making sure they're properly prepared for a mission in Afghanistan.
With regard to the overall force structure, the two primary issues for me are to have sufficient ground forces, to enable us to meet not only our current operational requirements, principally to the CENTCOM region, but also to maintain the ability to stay engaged and exercise with our European allies.
Again we talk a lot about building partner capacity. For us, that is much more than just words. It is a very real mission. And sometimes the only way you can really do that is to have U.S. forces that can partner with our European forces.
So we'd like to have some additional forces to do that.
My recommendation to General Craddock, who is my operational boss, is to reconsider the decision for the two brigades that are scheduled to come back to the U.S. and '12 and '13, and see -- does it make more sense for them stay in Europe.
And so what -- as we always do in the Army, we're going through all those planning and what-if drills, if you will, to say if that decision is changed, and we keep one or two of those brigades either permanently or for some longer period of time than currently envisioned, what other changes do we need to make in terms of housing and -- you know, family housing and soldier housing and motor pools and training areas and all those kinds of things.
So that's -- so my input is to my operational commander, General Craddock, and then -- and he'll digest that and have a discussion back here with the -- with Secretary Gates and with the chairman and at some point come to a decision.
Q Just to follow up, so your recommendation is basically to keep those 42,000 --
GEN. HAM: At -- I think about that level is -- would be about right to let us accomplish the range of missions that I feel is appropriate.
Q General, you talked a little bit about the need to adjust training. Have you started doing any of that yet? Have the training grounds switched to try to beef up the Afghanistan style training and scale back on the Iraq style training?
GEN. HAM: We have an ability -- most of our training is done at the -- for tactical units is done at our training center at Hohenfels, Germany. We have an ability now to do that. Some of the stuff is relatively simple, and you've seen that at the training centers here in the States.
It's simply chaining -- changing signage from Arabic to Pashtu or to Dari; a little bit of changing in the clothing that the role-players wear, those kinds of things. More problematic for us is the language capability. So we're still doing some work in that regard to do it.
We've found that the geography -- the topography is less important than having the right role-players in -- with the right backgrounds so that the unit that's going through its training can exercise all of its intelligence systems, all of its collection systems with the appropriate language being spoken and with the appropriate familial and tribal connections.
So it is a bit of a retraining or restructuring force, but that's well under way.
Q General, when do you expect a decision on keeping the Schweinfurt and the Baumholder brigades in Germany?
GEN. HAM: Well, there is a decision. The decision is that they don't stay. They're going -- we have an age-old tradition in the United States Army of follow the last order first.
GEN. HAM: You know, the last order is that those brigades go back -- come back to the states in 2012 and 2013. So we are presently moving on that timeline that says that's going to happen.
My recommendation is we ought to reconsider that. But in the meantime, I have an obligation to make sure that we're postured to do it. The challenge is the longer we go, of course, if the decision is changed, then it's more difficult -- probably more costly to change the decision. So a sooner decision would obviously be beneficial.
Q Did you get any kind of timeline on when a decision might be made on your recommendation?
GEN. HAM: General Craddock and I have talked about that. And he's -- and he obviously has to have those discussions with the chairman and with the secretary. Just as I've said here, my recommendation to him is a soon -- a decision sooner is better. But there's no hard time out there that says it's got to be made by then.
Q General -- go ahead, sorry, Barb.
Q General, what -- General Ham, could I ask you about the human health of the force? The Army's struggling right now with record suicide rates, with PTSD with so many of the troops coming back. You yourself served a tour in Iraq.
From your position right now, what are your concerns about the suicide rate? What are you seeing with the troops, whether they're in Europe or wherever they are? Let me start that. And then I want to ask you a follow-up, if I may, sir.
GEN. HAM: It seems to me that just about everything, in terms of the human dimension, gets better if we can increase the time between deployments. That allows time for soldiers to spend with their families, to recover, to do other things.
It allows the unit to get a little downtime, to catch their breath. And we are in fact starting to see that occur in many circumstances where the -- particularly units that are -- we've got several units that are now coming off 15-month deployments that they'll get, under current plans, get 14-15, in some cases, 18 months of dwell, which is good. It's not sufficient but it's certainly better than where we have been before.
The challenge that I've got in Europe is of course, as you all know, when a unit comes back, we have a reset period, which we basically say, leave the unit alone. We change most of the leaders, brigade and battalion commanders and the like.
What I've got to do is to make sure that those new commanders don't immediately take their units into a very high-tempo training cycle, that they've got to -- that they've got to again allow the unit to catch their breath. Because even if the soldiers are new to the unit, they likely have previous deployments. And so we've got to get some time.
So programs that focus on families, focus on soldier well-being; you've seen some discussion about Battlemind and Warrior Adventure Quest and those kinds of things. Most of that, if we can get time, gives us a better opportunity.
Q Well, let me be more specific. What are your -- two things.
GEN. HAM: Sure.
Q Certainly you've noticed the rise in the suicide rate in the Army. And the Army's concerned about that.
So as a four-star commander, could you talk a little bit about the command concerns, about the suicide rate? And because you have spoken publicly before, I believe, you have given interviews on your experience with PTSD, you can serve as someone who understands what young soldiers may be going through. Can you tell us about that?
GEN. HAM: I'm a long way from being a young soldier. So I wouldn't delude myself to know that I understand that. What I do know is that for me, having gone through a deployment, and when I came back, there was a period of adjustment there that I needed some help to get through that adjustment.
I don't think that's all that uncommon. And I think the challenge is making sure folks understand that it's okay to ask for a little bit of help.
Some people need a little bit of help. Some people need a lot of help. Our -- my job is to make sure in Europe that whatever support is required is available to them.
I wish -- I wish I had an answer on the suicides. I don't have an answer on the suicides. It's an easy answer to leap immediately to say repetitive deployments, short dwell -- I mean, all those things intuitively say that's probably right. But I'm not sure it's right. What I think we do have to do is look, as General Casey and Secretary Geren have charged us to do as leaders -- is to look at and focus on this problem very intensely to try to make sure that we are doing all that we can to identify the contributing factors that have caused such a dramatic increase in suicides in the Army, find the underlying causes and then deal with those.
So it's -- it is a problem. I wish I -- Barbara, I wish I could say here -- sit here today and say, "A-ha! We know what causes it, and we're fixing it."
Q But so many young soldiers say the problem for them is the professional Army military stigma still associated with asking for help. Can you -- how did you get past the stigma? How do you -- how do you get past that?
GEN. HAM: Well, I think -- I think there -- first of all, I think there is still a stigma. I think it's getting better, but it is still there. Personally, wonderfully supportive family and a very supportive chain of command, the folks that I work for, that -- and also, access, which is part of it -- I mean, to know that you can have access to confidential care if that's what you so desire.
So we're doing better in that regard. I've been heartened by a couple of community visits in Europe where it has been the spouses who have come back and said, "Hey, my soldier needed some help, and we found it much more accessible," either for the soldier or for the family member. So I think we're getting better. And if my speaking out and others' -- senior folks' speaking out helps to reduce the stigma, then that's a good thing.
Q How much do you think that makes a difference for --
GEN. HAM: My measure is simple. If there's one soldier that feels more confident asking for help because he read something about what I did and what my wife did, then that's a success. I hope that it's more than that. I've been encouraged. I've gotten some wonderfully supportive notes from soldiers and spouses and parents. And that -- I mean, that's encouraging.
But I shouldn't overstate that. I mean, there is -- there is still a stigma. There is still a culture out there that says if you have to go get help, that's a sign of weakness. And we've got to defeat that.
Q Was this all related to the Mosul dining hall --
GEN. HAM: Well, I mean, that was -- that was certainly a piece of it. I mean, that was clearly the worst day of my life. But -- and that was -- I mean, I think that was certainly a piece of it.
Q Is the Army still focused on having five hub communities in Europe, four in Germany and one in Italy? And where do you stand right now in completion of that transformation?
GEN. HAM: That is the current plan, is that we would keep those garrisons that are identified. And that's based on the 1st Armored Division headquarters returning to the States, which is a BRAC -- which is the one remaining BRAC move that we have in Europe. Fifth Corps, which is headquartered in Heidelberg, deactivates in July. And then the two brigade combat teams that would return the States in '12 and '13 would remain -- would leave us with five enduring communities in Europe.
The biggest challenge in all of that at present is the consolidation of the Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Italy. Construction of that facility is -- I should say the demolition of the site in preparation for construction is now under way. The Italian government's been hugely supportive of that.
But all of those things won't come to -- won't be finalized until the '13, '14 time frame.
GEN. HAM: Please.
Q When do you get to 24 months dwell time under current force requirements, you know, in both Iraq and -- your total force requirements, deployed force requirements? Do you have a projection on when you would actually get to that sort of two-year mark?
GEN. HAM: It's at least a couple years away, if we stay at -- there are so many variables in there. If you assume that current force demand, then, you know, much of it then revolves around how rapidly can you grow the Army. That's -- I mean, there's funding that's tied up in there. There's military construction that's tied up in there. There's recruiting that's tied up in there, retention that says how quickly can you do that. So I think probably -- we're probably at least a couple years away from getting to 24 months dwell.
Q And the decision, the pending decision on Afghanistan, I mean, I know, we don't quite know what that decision is going to be yet. But how does that -- how many months do you lose? I mean, do you have a sense of what that would do to you, assuming there's no immediate change in the force requirements in Iraq?
GEN. HAM: Well, if the total demand increases, I mean, if we stay where you are in Iraq and increase in Afghanistan, then my sense is, the only way you can do that is to accelerate the deployment.
So dwell would -- it might not get worse but it sure won't get any better. But I think the effort is to try to keep the force, the total force requirement at about where it is, so that as you grow the Army, then you can start building additional dwell time. And that dwell time does.
It not only helps us in the human dimension. It helps us get back to this balance of full-spectrum capability that we have, that we don't have to keep turning units exclusively for counterinsurgency operations. We can start getting some more training in that and provide the capability to the nation that we're supposed to.
Q Is there a net -- what's the net effect on the Army budget of keeping the two heavy brigades in Europe? I mean, are there savings? Does it cost?
GEN. HAM: The Installation Management Command folks are wrestling through all of that. There is -- again there are so many factors. If you look just simply at the cost of ‘a’ soldier in the States and ‘a’ soldier in Europe, it is slightly more expensive in Europe, because we pay a cost-of-living allowance. But there's but there's again there's 10 other major factors of construction and, you know, all those things that factor in.
But we're in that dialogue now to say, if this decision is revisited, you know, how would we execute that? My initial reaction is that we can probably do so without any new military construction in the near term. We would need some recapitalization of facilities. But all that dialogue is under way now.
Q General, can I just stay with that issue?
You said that keeping those two heavy brigades there would allow you to do certain things that you're tasked to do. Can you talk a bit more concretely about what kind of engagement? Are we talking about training exercises, that kind of thing?
GEN. HAM: Principally there are two things that the current operations tempo for our forces deploying, in and out of the CENTCOM region, have precluded us from participating in as meaningful a way as we would like to, in combined exercises with our European allies, at the tactical unit level. And at some point, there is just -- I mean, that is the best way to build tactical capability, is to partner with them and go through a period of training and an exercise together.
There is also a part of engagement with NATO. And what many of the NATO allies are looking for, both long-term allies and new members of the alliance, are looking -- they -- where they had previously contributed units in some of our larger-scale exercises, whether they be in simulation or real, with a U.S. headquarters, a corps or division headquarters, it would give them the opportunity to exercise under that kind of command and control architecture that they don't have the ability to do themselves. So those two things, principally, would allow us to do that.
Q Can I just follow up briefly and ask if you've had discussions with the host communities there in the Federal Republic of Germany government, and then obviously the local community there, about how they would feel about those brigades remaining?
GEN. HAM: We have at -- not surprisingly, the communities that are scheduled to close are not happy. I mean, there is -- and it's more than just economics. There is a -- in many -- Heidelberg is a great example, where I am. That's a community that is scheduled to close. We've been in Heidelberg since the end of World War II. There's a long-standing tradition and partnership, and there's a lot of goodness that derives from that. And so that's -- those are hard -- those are hard severances to make. And so I'm confident that in every case where we are currently scheduled to close a community, the mayors, the minister, presidents would be very, very happy if those decisions were reversed.
Q General, could you talk about -- a little bit about your relationship with U.S. Army Africa? Do you have an expectation for any length of time that you'll have to support them? Do you have any idea what the timeline for that -- all of that is?
GEN. HAM: Southern European Task Force, headquartered in Vicenza, is U.S. Army Africa. They have no forces assigned. It is -- it is the headquarters. And the headquarters does the planning for -- again, for land-centric operations in the AFRICOM -- in the AFRICOM theater.
In the -- in -- prior to the stand-up of Africa Command on 1 October of last year, when European Command had -- responsible for the African continent, there were forces assigned to U.S. Army Europe, principally logistics, signal and intelligence units, that were principally focused to support operations in Africa.
Those units are still largely inside U.S. Army Europe today and they still largely support operations on the African Continent. So when Southern European Task Force, U.S. Army Africa, has a requirement for some number of intelligence specialists, then the most likely place for them to seek support is through us.
The question is, does it make sense to assign forces to Africa Command? Right now I think probably not, because if we took -- if we took the logistics, intelligence and signal units that support Africa Command and took them out of U.S. Army Europe and stood them up as separate entities, you would need another headquarters for -- to support those. And it's probably not economical at this time to try to do that.
So what we've got to work out with Africa Command, with U.S. Army Africa are procedures that allow us to provide the capability that they need in a very expeditious process. And we're working on that right now.
Q Are you expanding the training exercises with the Bulgarians and the Romanians that began couple -- few years ago?
GEN. HAM: This year -- we are scheduled this year -- summer of '09 -- to have a larger U.S. presence than we have had previously. Again, it goes back to having a longer time between deployments. And so if the -- if our current plans hold, we'll cycle a number of U.S. companies through both Romania and Bulgaria under battalion-level leadership to partner with the Bulgarians and the Romanians for the training that will occur roughly from July through October. So a larger presence and for a longer period of time -- we think that's a good thing.
We're also in dialogue with the Romanians and Bulgarians about what other nations should participate. And we're encouraging the Romanians and the Bulgarians to invite other nations to come participate. This year it's probably likely, in most cases, to be in an observer status and then -- and hopefully if they can do that, we can build confidence and then next year have them come back with actual troop participation.
It's a great place to train. There are some things that we can do in Romania and Bulgaria because of spectrum management, because of the size of the training areas that we can't do in some of our training areas in Germany.
So it's a great opportunity for us to do that.
Q What kind of training?
GEN. HAM: Well, we -- I mean, it's all types. We can do counter-IED training. The Air Force trains there, as well. There's some live-fire ranges, small-unit infantry artillery in cooperation with our Romanian and Bulgarian counterparts. So it's just a -- it's always a good thing for soldiers to operate on unfamiliar terrain and, I mean, there's some goodness that comes from that. The cultural differences, the language, learning to work through that is also a good experience for them.
Q Sir, let's just hypothesize that the two brigades do have to come back to the United States. What mission goes away in U.S. Army Europe, or what mission gets shortchanged because of that movement?
GEN. HAM: I think if we stay on the current time line and the pace of deployments, operational deployments, does not diminish, then we'll continue to have -- I will continue to have an inability to support the Building Partner Capacity missions to the degree that I think is necessary. So that would be the first and foremost mission that would -- that would be affected by that.
Q General, I was wondering what kind of contingencies is the U.S. Army preparing for in regards to withdrawal from Iraq, especially its impact on surrounding countries like Turkey?
GEN. HAM: I don't know about a direct effect on Turkey. We have a good -- a very good relationship with Turkey. I don't know that we would see a dramatic effect as U.S. forces in Iraq decline. I'm not sure we'd see a direct effect there.
For us, it is largely a logistical challenge of bringing troops and equipment back through -- into the Europe -- into Europe theater. So I mean, that's the -- it's more a mechanical process than anything else. But it is -- I mean, that's not to understate the challenge. I mean, having all that equipment come back, not just to the Army at large, but in our particular case in Europe there's a substantial workload of equipment reset that would be necessary as well.
Q And more in terms of sort of problem scenarios, where violence erupts and the country may be split, and Turkey gets involved in terms of the Kurdish problem, things like that, those kinds of contingency plans, is U.S. Army Europe involved in any of that, or thinking ahead to any of that?
GEN. HAM: I think that's -- that would probably be a contingency plan that's going on inside Central Command, I would guess, rather than European Command. We would at some point, if called upon as force providers, have some role in that. But I think that would probably be a different command than mine that would participate.
Q (Off mike) -- troops are in demand for the foreseeable future in both Iraq and Afghanistan. What kind of challenges does that bring to you in U.S. Army Europe? Because obviously your force structure is much more limited than back here in the States. What are the challenges involved in maintaining enabler flow for the next couple years?
GEN. HAM: One of the challenges that we face is that there are disparities between the types of forces. The brigade combat teams are -- we are starting to see increased dwell between deployments for the brigade combat teams. For some of the -- some of the other units, aviation units, military police, signal, intelligence units, then the dwell is -- in many cases is shorter. So it's a -- there is -- there's a challenge -- it's a challenge that I have between trying to manage the expectations of soldiers and families in those various types of units and try to balance that as best we can. So that's a -- that's a near-term challenge that we have, to be sure.
I would also highlight that there is -- there also is a challenge for soldiers and their families in terms of deploying from an already deployed location. So your soldier deploys to Europe with his or her family -- or not, if it's an unmarried soldier -- and then deploys to Iraq or Afghanistan or Kosovo or someplace like that. That seems to compound the stress a little bit because the soldier is either -- you know, physically separated from his or her family. The family may be physically separated, geographically separated from a normal support infrastructure that they would have in their own hometown or with their parents or what have you.
So we're trying to address that in each of our communities to make sure that those programs that are necessary to support the families are there. But it does -- I think it ratchets up the stress a little bit, to deploy from a forward location.
Q General, is there any talk about beginning training missions in Georgia again?
GEN. HAM: I was recently in Georgia and spent some time talking to their leaders there. I think, you know, that European Command on behalf of the department conducted an assessment that focuses on a couple of things that we're looking, with European Command, to see how we can help. Some of it is very tactical. It's weapons and equipment proficiency -- you know, trucks and radios and first aid training and those kinds of things -- just basic military skills, if we can help in some regard in that capacity.
Secondly, as in command and control, the Georgians have asked for some help in that regard. So European Command is working with -- again, with the department on what's the best way to proceed in that regard.
I was pretty impressed. My -- it was my first visit to Georgia. I was impressed. They have good training facilities. They are -- they're building the personnel infrastructure and programs that they need to recruit and retain the right kinds of folks. They're desirous of help and assistance. And if there's ways that we can help them, I think European Command will work their way through them.
Q So is there a plan to start training the Georgians again?
GEN. HAM: We -- not -- there's not a timeline to it. European Command is still working, again, with the department on the results of the assessment that was concluded last fall as to, again, what's the right -- what's the right way ahead.
Q Just to follow on that, it appeared at the time that the Russians were intent on dismantling the Georgian military as much as they could. What kind of shape is that military in right now?
GEN. HAM: There are shortfalls in equipment. There are shortfalls in command and control. There are shortfalls in tactical capability. I think the Georgians recognize that.
But they're still not bad. I mean, they -- but it's also important to remember that the training that we've provided to them in years past was specifically to help them with an expeditionary capability to conduct operations principally in Iraq. And they did a very, very good job with that.
They were not trained for territorial defense. And so as they redeployed from Iraq back to Georgia in August of last year, they are -- the military as a whole, I think, is going through an assessment of how do we need to change our structure, our doctrine, our tactics to account for a changed mission that -- than that which we envisioned, that of territorial defense as opposed to an expeditionary capability?
So it's a fundamental change in direction, I think, for the military of Georgia. And I -- again, I think European Command, in conjunction with the department, is trying to sort out how can we best help them in that regard.
Q And if I could also follow up on Luis's question, we were under the impression or understanding that most or -- if not all deployments or soldiers who were being redeployed were now getting the benefit of at least one year dwell time.
GEN. HAM: Yes.
Q You said however that these various specialties, aviation, MPs -- is that a significant number of forces? And how much dwell time are they getting? Is it six months?
GEN. HAM: No, no. The rule still is one to one, minimum of 12 months. So even the 15-month deployments in some cases are not getting or were not getting one to one.
They were getting deployed for 15, back for 12, gone for another 12. But we are getting better at that. But it is but the 12 months, we think, is an absolute minimum. But again I don't want to convey that 12 months is satisfactory. It's not.
Twenty four months is what we know we need. And we've got to build to that. All I was trying to say was that there are some types of units that are on a little bit faster turn than some other kinds of units, but not to break the 12-month -- not to break the 12-month minimum.
Okay, anything else.
Well, thanks again.
Oh, yes, ma'am.
Q I was curious if you'd had any discussions, with General Craddock, about what might happen with NATO if the French come back in more officially. Would things change with you in any way?
GEN. HAM: Well, I don't think they would change for the U.S. Army in Europe in a dramatic way. I have a very good relationship with the chief of the French army. They're a powerful partner. And to bring them back in to the integrated military structure of NATO, I think, would -- there would be certainly some challenges.
There is some discussion, I think, under way that if they do that, where do -- you know, the NATO term is flags to post, you know, where the senior French officials go. But all in all, I mean, I think, to have an important member of the alliance be a full member of the alliance, in the military structure, would be a good thing. General Craddock and I have talked about it but only in a peripheral way, I think.
Okay, again, thank you all very much. I appreciate you taking the time. This is not the U.S. Army Europe that I grew up with made of, in the old days, some of you remember, of commander in chief, U.S. Army Europe was at the top of the pile. That's, you know, that was the USAREUR that was going to fight the big war, you know, in the Fulda Gap and all that.
That's not what USAREUR is today.
But my belief is that it still is important, and I'm very, very proud of the soldiers and civilians and family members that serve. They're doing important work for our nation. And we would welcome you to come see us any time it fits your schedule.
Thank you all very much.
Q Thank you.
Q Thank you.
Q Thank you. Come back again.
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