Story and photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, 29th MPAD, USD-C
Camp Liberty, Iraq - The U.S. military has seen a tremendous amount of change over the past decade, and further changes are still to come, said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff while visiting Camp Liberty, Iraq, and service members with United States Division – Center.
“We live in a time of extraordinary change,” said Mullen. “Look at what we’ve become as a military, almost on the fly. We started off a heavy, kinetic-focused conventional force and we have now become the best unconventional irregular warfare counterinsurgency force in the world.”
And that change has allowed success in Iraq, Mullen said.
“I’ve been coming here since 2004,” said Mullen. “Look at where we are now. Look at the chance we have given 26 million people and it is their future and it is in their hands. Your mission here is to help them get off to a great start as a brand new political system, a brand new democracy and everyone’s democracy isn’t the same but it is a chance.”
As the U.S. drawdown in Iraq continues, that means additional changes, specifically as it relates to deployments.
“We are at a point now for both the Army and Marine Corps, who have seen the brunt of these wars, where time at home for the next couple of years will double what it has been and be twice as long as the time you were deployed,” said Mullen.
But part of spending less time deployed brings with it somewhat of a change in leadership style, said Mullen.
“Our focus now will be on garrison leadership,” said Mullen. “We use to be a garrison force. (The questions we face are) what is the discipline? What are the standards? How do we train? How we focus on education and advancement? How do we deal with the challenges that we sort of stick away in a closet, for us and our families, because we have either been at war or getting ready to go again.”
The answer to part of those questions, said Mullen, is basic leadership skills and mentoring those around you.
“Everybody in this room is a leader,” said Mullen. “I don’t care how junior you are. And it doesn’t matter where you are in the formation—front, middle or back—it’s you, it’s people, it’s leadership in the toughest of times that makes a difference. And I’d encourage you focus on that, develop your own, take care of your battle buddies, mentor somebody. Everybody sitting in this room succeeded because somebody made a difference in their lives.”
There will be challenges ahead, said Mullen, referring to budget concerns over the next few years that, as planned, will see a reduction in numbers serving in the Army.
“The Army will be reduced over the course of the next couple of years,” said Mullen, adding that the projected number is about 520,000 Soldiers serving on active duty.
But, whatever the size of the military, Mullen stressed that it has to be a ready and capable force.
“Whatever military we have, whatever size, it’s got to be ready to go,” he said. “That means bombs have to be in their racks, magazines need to full, training needs to be taking place, all those things.”
Mullen underscored the importance of ensuring the military stays trained and ready.
“I won’t lead a military that is virtually strip mined from the inside so that it look s good (from a budget perspective), but we’re not going to sea, we’re not flying airplanes, we’re not training in the field because we don’t have the money to do that,” he said.
Part of ensuring that means continuing to operate in a joint environment, said Mullen.
“We have to stay balanced and we have to stay whole,” said Mullen. “We are a much better force when we fight jointly. We’ve got to not be redundant, rely on each other and depend on that for the future as well. “
And, Mullen said, it’s the service members that make the difference and get the job done.
“Thanks for what you’re doing,” he said. “Thanks for making a difference. E-mail your spouses, e-mail your kids and tell them I said thanks.”