"You are joining an organization [the United States Army] that has been at war for eight-and-a-half years … and it has never lost a battle," the Army chief of staff said to 273 Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets attending the U.S. Army Cadet Command-George Catlett Marshall ROTC Award Seminar at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va.
Speaking at a plenary session April 14 in the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University, a campus that abuts VMI and supports the seminar, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., said, "That is an accomplishment unparalleled in the history of the world. … But because we have been at war for eight-and-a-half years, we are also an Army that is out of balance."
Adding, "What I mean by that is we’re so weighed down by the current demands that we can’t do the things we need to do. It’s sustaining this volunteer force for the long haul and to prepare ourselves to do other things. That’s the reality"
The cadets, selected as the top senior year ROTC cadet from each college and university that has the program for his or her military and academic accomplishments, demonstrated leadership ability and potential were to be commissioned second lieutenants in the Army several weeks following the three-day seminar.
Casey, commissioned from the Georgetown University ROTC program, said, "You are joining an organization that’s the best in the world at what it does."
Emphasizing that this is the longest war this nation has fought with an all-volunteer force, Casey said, "Soon every one of you will raise your right hand and be commissioned [a second lieutenant] and welcomed into the Army where you will know that you will go to war."
But, he assured the cadets that since 2007, the Army began a program "to get ourselves back in balance," and it would take the better part of four years to accomplish that goal.
The four areas the Army focused on were sustaining soldiers, "the heart and souls of this organization," civilians and families– and ensure that and their families enjoy a good quality of life; preparing, training and equipping soldiers for success while sending them in harm’s way; resetting the returning force with properly replenished and repaired equipment; and transforming the force into a relevant and ready combat arm for the 21st century.
"Now, we are in the fourth year and we are getting ourselves back in balance," he said.
Casey added, "We were a very good Army on September 11, , but it was an Army designed to fight large, armored battles on the plains of Europe."
Since that time, "we have significantly transformed ourselves over the last decade into an Army that’s far more relevant to the challenges that we face today."
The Army has been redesigned into a brigade-centric modular force that relies on self-contained, full-spectrum units that are able to join and fight with larger forces, thereby giving the nation the capability of responding quickly and effectively to meet specific circumstances in a crisis anywhere in the world.
There are three teams: the infantry brigade combat team, the heavy brigade combat team (armor) and the Stryker brigade combat team.
Casey said this progress – "putting ourselves back in balance" – coupled with the drawdown of combat forces in Iraq and the "plus-up in Afganistan," has made the Army a better balanced force.
He also predicted that the operating tempo will change for the Army, and that will benefit soldiers, their families – and the readiness of the force.
"Now we are in a position," Casey said, "where by 2011, 70 percent of the active Army will be deployed for one year and then be back for two; 80 percent of the [Army National] Guard and [U.S. Army] Reserve will be deployed for one year with four years back."
Adding, "It takes two to three years back to fully recover from combat."
Casey assured the cadets that "none of us can predict the future," but because of the world situation – population growth, demographics, ideological struggles, the emergence of rogue states, escalations in terrorism and terrorist organizations – the soon-to-be-commissioned officers must exhibit the highest form of leadership that is based on the training they have received.
To face and deal with these complex situations in the years that lie ahead, Casey said, "It’s leadership that makes the difference and it is the leader who is able to chart the course through the complexity of these different environments.
"Welcome to the profession of honor."
The award seminar, sponsored by the U.S. Army Cadet Command and the George C. Marshall Foundation, is in its 33rd year.
This year, cadets heard from senior military and civilian leaders to include: Casey, Gen. Martin Dempsey, commanding general, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command; Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander, U.S. Army Accessions Command; Maj. Gen. Arthur Bartell, commander, U.S Army Cadet Command; Maj. Gen. Douglas L. Carver, chief of Army chaplains; Brig. Gen. Anthony G. Crutchfield, director, Joint Center for Operational Analysis – Lessons Learned; Maj. Gen. Robert E. Wagner, USA, Ret., the first commander of Cadet Command; and Brian D. Shaw, president of the George C. Marshall Foundation.
The seminar chairman was Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III, USA, Ret., superintendant, Virginia Military Institute.
The cadets also attended national security seminars with subject-matter experts that dealt with contemporary issues affecting the nation and the Army they are preparing to lead.
Subjects at the round table discussions included, but were not limited to, "U.S. Military Support to Stability and Peace Operations," "Security Challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan," "China, Japan and the Koreas," "Israel and its Neighbors – Is Peace Possible," "Russia: Ally or Antagonist," "The Impact of a Nuclear Iran," and "The Role of the Platoon Leader and NCO."
In his closing remarks to the cadets, Bartell said, "During these last three days, we have all had a unique opportunity to hear the unvarnished views of those who are on the forefront of leading America’s Army."
Adding, "And, the roundtable discussions have presented a unique opportunity to explore the geopolitical issues and leadership challenges we face both as a nation and as an Army.
"Soon you will be entrusted with the lives of our soldiers – America’s sons and daughters. … Lead from the front. … And, be willing to embrace responsibility."