'Thanks for your service' are words that need action 

10/11/2009 12:00 AM 

                                                                                                                                 October 11, 2009

 Kenneth Fisher address caps three days of an intense, magnificent AUSA Annual Meeting.

            Kenneth Fisher’s Marshall Medal remarks were a fitting and challenging way  to conclude the Association of the United States Army’s 55th Annual Meeting.  “I feel as an advocate for our veterans, soldiers, and their families…  ‘thank you for your service’ is just not enough anymore.”

            The chief executive officer of the Fisher House Foundation told the 3,000 attendees at George Catlett Marshall Dinner,  “What I have observed in great detail, and perhaps can offer some perspective about are the challenges that our returning wounded military personnel and their families face when they come home.   The challenges can be immense. They are sometimes complex and often long-term.  And they are made worse by the current state of our economy.”

            His remarks are posted on this page. “Thanks  for your service” only goes so far.  Actions speak louder than words, and you, AUSA members, have been speaking loudly through what you do for soldiers, their families and veterans.  We need to keep at it because the challenges will remain with us for decades.

            The three-day Annual Meeting truly was a professional development forum of the highest order for the entire Army family.

            Speaking at the Opening Ceremony Oct. 5, Defense Secretary Robert Gates extolled the rapid changes the Army has made in adapting to counter-insurgency in doctrine, training and technology. The Army must work to retain the young officers and non-commissioned officers who have become experts in the new challenging type of war,

            We heard from Army Secretary John McHugh, who introducing Secretary Gates, reminded us why we are striving to be: “The Voice for the Army – Support for the Soldier.” 

            “I have to tell you that the days ahead, of course, are of great challenge.  We find ourselves faced, it seems at times, by more crises than there are hours in the day in which to confront them.  But I can tell you this as well. 

            “Failure is not an option.  We will, we can, we must succeed.  And as more than 230 years in the history of this great U.S. Army has shown you, the men and women who put that uniform on will be equal to this challenge as long as we stand by them, as long as you in the AUSA and we in the civilian and military leadership provide them with the tools that they need.”

            Gen. George W. Casey Jr., our Chief of Staff said at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Luncheon Oct. 6   l recalled the four initiatives he started to rebalance the force, which were to sustain the soldiers and their families, prepare to win the on-going conflict, to reset the units effectively when they come home, and to transform the Army for an uncertain future.

            While not completely “out of the woods” yet, he said the force was better able to respond to additional force requirements if they emerge.

            This year – 2009, The Year of the Noncommissioned Officer, there was no more fitting awardee for the Bainbridge Medal than the Army’s NCO corps.  We also recognized this in the theme for this Annual Meeting: “America’s Army: The Strength of the Nation – Noncommissioned Officers: The Strength of the Army.”

            Every day, noncommissioned officers told their stories of selfless service and caring for and mentoring their soldiers in “Sergeants’ Corner” at the Army exhibit.  Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston emphasized to the senior NCOs in a forum Oct. 6 that a significant portion of a soldier’s growth and development – about 70 percent – happens in operational units. 

            “It’s what we learn on the job,” he said.  “It’s what we gain from mentors every day.  We learn not only from the commanders and superiors that we work for, but we also learn from our peers, and we also learn from our subordinates.”

            The Institute of Land Warfare’s Contemporary Military Forums on topics as diverse as physical and mental fitness, equipment  modernization and energy initiatives were filled to overflowing. Gen. David Petraeus’ special presentation on Central Command, like a number of addresses at the Annual Meeting, was carried live on cable public affairs channels.  AUSA is recognized worldwide as an first class organization committed to helping frame the needed and continuing debate on national defense and national security.

            The same was true at the three AUSA Military Forums.  About 450 Family Readiness Group members from Forces Command attended these forums, as did 50 from the Training and Doctrine Command and 17 from Army Pacific.

            Professional development was also a driving force reflected in the more than 400 exhibits from industry and the Army.  There in and around the displays, soldiers of all ranks could meet and discuss with industry leaders what was available now, what was just over the horizon and ideas for the future.

            In the end, I want to return to what Mr. Fisher said in an address that was interrupted more than 20 times by vigorous applause.

            Instead let [service members, veterans and their families]  be blessed by God and country, let their expectations soar and be fulfilled.  And let them never be disappointed by the lack of compassion and faithfulness of their fellow countrymen. Let them finally get what they deserve the most - -a system that cares for them, and a nation that honors them because ‘Thank you for your service is no longer enough.”’