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The U.S. Army: Trusted Professionals for the Nation

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Today, we live in a dynamic and uncertain security environment with challenges across every continent. In an era of increased competition for resources, shifting alliances, empowered networks, unprecedented information access and quickening devolutions of power, it has never been more important to sustain a highly trained, professional force that is able to provide expeditionary, decisive landpower tailored and scaled to perform missions across the entire range of military operations.

Hostile nation-state and nonstate actors aim to influence the human dimension of conflict. They sow instability in the name of self-determinism to gain access to resources, terrain and influence. Land forces remain the primary means to respond, and they must be prepared to do so quickly in response to multiple threats in different parts of the world at the same time.

We can never forget the lessons of the past or engage in wishful thinking about the nature of war and likely sources of instability in the future. This year marks 75 years since the beginning of World War II. Then, the potential for war was underestimated because of dismissive assessments about threats. However, clear signs were present well in advance of war’s advent. History tells us how dangerous inaction was in its wake. It also tells us that to maintain relative peace, we must be engaged, ready, and, when called upon, committed to fight and win. We cannot focus purely on the immediate and most capable threats; we must focus on emerging threats that lie in wait.

Our Army has always been the nation’s primary military instrument to prevent conflict, shape environments and win wars. We have spent 38 of the last 75 years since World War II’s onset fighting land wars to preserve global security and protect our national interests. Throughout, we have strengthened our allies, deterred aggression, reorganized the force structure and built the Army for the next fight.

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Pvt. David Bryant, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), mans an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gun at Forward Operating Base Muqar in Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province. (Credit: U.S. Army)

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Paratroopers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, exit a CH-47 Chinook during a weeklong field-training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C. (Credit: U.S. Army)

Our Army continues to adapt to the changing security environment and provide versatility to the joint force. Today, we have more than 225,000 soldiers assigned, aligned or supporting combatant commands. Of those, more than 60,000 soldiers are deployed and an additional 84,000 forward-stationed in nearly 150 locations worldwide. We continue to use the total force of active, Reserve and National Guard units to meet the needs of combatant commanders while building on the integration and synchronization of our special operations and conventional forces. Going forward, the Reserve and Guard will comprise 54 percent of the total force, making the Army the only service branch in which the Reserve and Guard outnumber the active component. This underscores the vitality of the Total Army concept to training, readiness and operations.

Regardless of our force size in the coming years, what remains certain is that the demands placed upon our forces will increase rather than decrease. Each complication of the security environment—whether in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, North Africa, Gaza or the Korean Peninsula—emphasizes the need for a ready, professional Army that the nation trusts to protect its core interests.

Last year, I outlined five priorities to accomplish our strategic imperative. Since then, we have made significant progress carrying out these priorities to ensure that the all-volunteer Army remains the most highly trained and professional land force in the world, uniquely organized with the capability and capacity to provide expeditionary, decisive landpower to the joint force and ready to perform across a wide range of military operations to prevent, shape and win in support of combatant commanders. We stand ready to defend the nation and its interests at home and abroad, both today and against emerging threats, as the nation’s trusted professionals.

Adaptive Leaders for a Complex World

Our competitive advantage in today’s complex strategic environment is not our high-tech weapon systems or adaptive military doctrine. It is our leadership development. In the last year, we emphasized leader development even as we reduced our force size and budget. We invested a significant amount of energy to preserve and sharpen our institutional strength. In today’s high-velocity, information-rich environment, the depth of quality leaders can present enemies with more dilemmas and decisions than they are able to manage. Overwhelming our adversaries’ decisionmaking ability allows us to shape the environment, to control the rate of operations and to ensure we are postured to fight and win.

We are enhancing leadership development at every level, from focusing on peer leadership with entry-level soldiers to developing strategic decisionmaking skills for general officers. In this effort, we have created and implemented tools to help mentor and develop leaders. We are implementing new evaluation report systems for officers and NCOs, expanding broadening opportunities for company and field grade officers and NCOs, increasing opportunities for women, instituting an Army Senior Leadership Development Program for all colonels and general officers, and closely managing the selection and attendance processes for Army schools and leadership development programs.

For the Army, it is important to bring in, utilize and keep the best, most qualified talent available. This is talent management. To do that, we continue to make sure that we create an environment in which all soldiers believe they can increase their personal capabilities and best contribute to the Army team. We are making certain that soldiers with different beliefs can operate effectively and are not discriminated against. As we look at talent management, it is also important to consider where all soldiers can serve. As we move forward with Soldier 2020, we are reviewing requirements for every MOS based on standards, not on biases or gender.

Globally Responsive, Regionally Engaged

Our Army remains a globally responsive and regionally engaged force that is committed to building enduring networks with our allies and partners. Throughout the world, our Army is developing regional expertise through military-to-military engagements, coalition training, rotational forces and integrated exercises that enable us to strengthen relationships and shape outcomes consistent with U.S. interests.

Regional alignment provides the groundwork for a Global Landpower Network that includes allies, expeditionary global and regional partners, and host-nation forces bound by the common interests of peace, liberty, regional stability and global prosperity. It is a framework of relationships devoted to shaping the global environment. Standing alongside our allies and partners, the U.S. Army must operate as an unshakable network. This network secures our interests and those of our allies against traditional, unconventional, hybrid and emerging strategies used by hostile nations, rogue militant and terrorist organizations, agents of proliferation, international criminal organizations, and other transregional threat groups. Networking with our allies and partners provides the most effective and efficient defense of our common interests.

As an integral part of the newly published Army Operating Concept, the Regional Alignment of Forces (RAF) is an organizational policy that provides combatant commands with predictable, responsive and mission-tailored forces and capabilities, expeditionary forces capable of simultaneously responding to multiple contingencies around the world. RAF supports combatant command efforts to engage partners, shape and prevent conflict, and conduct decisive operations. In the past year, we have continued to galvanize relationships with partners and allies to solidify our network of interconnected nodes.

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Two soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, discuss the mission during a patrol in the Tarin Kowt district of Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan. (Credit: U.S. Army)

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Leaders from units of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) conduct a combined-arms rehearsal at Fort Campbell, Ky. (Credit: U.S. Army)

In the Middle East, nearly 8,000 soldiers make up our enduring presence in Kuwait, where our forces have been stationed since 1991. The current crisis in Iraq, in which the Islamic State (IS) threatens to plunge the country into a civil war, has made this regional, sustained ground presence even more critical, particularly as we deploy assessment teams into Iraq to serve in an advisory capacity. In Jordan, the 1st Armored Division enhances our military-to-military relations with the Jordanian army while providing regional presence in response to the emerging IS threat. In Afghanistan, our conventional and special operations forces, composed of active, Reserve and National Guard soldiers, use lethal and nonlethal means to target terrorist networks, train and assist Afghan National Security Forces, and provide humanitarian assistance while reducing our footprint and transitioning to Operation Resolute Support.

In Europe, soldiers from U.S. Army Europe’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and 12th Combat Aviation Brigade rapidly deployed to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the face of Russian aggression to show solidarity and support our European partners. Elements from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, assumed the mission as the European Rotational Force/NATO Response Force in Poland and the Baltics. This marks the first use of the new European Activity Set, which provides tailored equipment packages based on force requirements.

In the Asia-Pacific region, where land forces are the dominant host-nation service in 24 of 26 nations, U.S. Army Pacific is developing relationships and partnerships through Pacific Pathways. The Army is building upon these relationships with the more than 80,000 soldiers deployed or forward-stationed in Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and throughout the rest of the region. The Army’s commitment to the Pacific continues to grow in response to unpredictable state and nonstate actors and humanitarian and disaster-relief scenarios.

In Africa, U.S. Army Africa forces have led the way in establishing multilateral partnerships in over 50 nations. USARAF has been the model for regional alignment and partnership development around the world. Over the last year, we conducted senior leader engagements, enhanced regionally focused activities, and partnered training and military operations. Army elements are also providing important disaster relief support in response to the ongoing Ebola crisis.

Across Central and South America and the Caribbean, almost 3,000 active, special operations, National Guard and Reserve forces support multinational operations and have taken on a range of activities, including tactical training and senior-level strategic engagements. The Michigan National Guard deployed to Belize, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala as part of Beyond the Horizon, a joint multinational humanitarian and civic assistance exercise. Alongside governmental, nongovernmental and private sector organizations, our troops worked with local populations, providing expert engineering and medical support.

At home, the Total Army carries out the immense task of protecting our borders from the threats facing our nation while assisting civil support operations in response to emergency and disaster relief. From flood evacuation to border protection to wildfire response, our Reserve and Guard forces provide unrivaled expertise and assistance.

A Scalable and Ready Modern Army

In order to secure our nation’s interests, the Army is adapting how it thinks and how it is organized to quickly provide tailorable and scalable forces around the globe. Our Army is becoming smaller, leaner and more agile, with the Army Operating Concept addressing how we manage the growing global threats to our collective defense. It lays out how we are adapting to see ourselves in new ways and are operating more effectively in the joint, interorganizational and multinational environment. We are looking to innovative solutions that will ensure that the Army of the next decade and beyond can deliver decisive landpower in this context.

The way we operate has changed. I think that it is unlikely that we will be putting 150,000 soldiers on the ground somewhere and waiting for H-hour to move across the berm. Instead, we will deploy tailored and scaled packages around the world quickly, providing the right mix of forces that are able to expand and build up on the ground based on the situation and mission. Demands are continuously placed upon our Army across the human, geographic and cyber dimensions of conflict. We are tailoring our responses accordingly. We stood up U.S. Army Cyber Command; we deployed small elements to Africa to train and advise; we partnered company-size elements with host-nation armies in Poland and the Baltics; and we placed division headquarters alongside coalition partners, such as in Jordan. Our priority is to get on the ground around the world with a scalable force to support combatant commanders, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Pacific or Eastern Europe.

Soldiers Committed to Army Profession

The relationships our soldiers develop within the Army and in the joint and multinational communities must be built on trust. Trust is the foundation of our profession: trust between soldiers; trust between soldiers and leaders; trust among soldiers, leaders and the institution; and trust between the institution and the American public.

The American soldier is the most discriminate military tool in our arsenal. We expect our soldiers to be competent—experts in their field. We expect commitment to fellow soldiers, to units, to the mission and to the institution. At the heart of every soldier must be unwavering character. Character is what defines us. Character is about understanding the moral and ethical values that we represent as well as being able to navigate the ethical dilemmas that we face during our careers.

Whether in peace or war, our soldiers have been trusted professionals at the forefront of American history since 1775, providing an enduring presence of service and sacrifice that characterizes our Army. This year, we hosted the first Army Profession Symposium, during which we described what it means to be a soldier: a trusted professional who understands the Army Ethic and what our nation expects of us. We hold ourselves to the highest standards, emphasizing competence, commitment and character. These bedrock principles will enable our soldiers to succeed both today and in the future in any security environment. No matter the challenge, our soldiers will deliver.

As we ask our soldiers to operate in more complex environments and ask our families to adapt to greater demands, it has become even more critical to build resiliency. Through our Ready and Resilient Campaign and our Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness programs, we have established the capability to build the physical, emotional and psychological strength of our soldiers, civilians and families.

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Paratroopers from 82nd Airborne conduct a ‘renegade athlete warrior challenge’ at Fort Bragg. (Credit: U.S. Army)

Premier All-Volunteer Army

Our Army is about the soldiers, family members and Department of the Army civilians comprising the Total Army team. Given globally diverse mission requirements, it is essential that we maintain the most highly trained and professional all-volunteer force. Such a force is sustained by keeping trust with those who serve or have served. In doing so, we honor the service and sacrifice of our soldiers, veterans, retirees, wounded warriors and families.

This past year, we implemented the Soldier for Life program, connecting soldiers and families to resources and tools necessary to integrate back into civilian life while maintaining an enduring link to the Army. We established the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program and Soldier for Life centers Armywide. Also, partnering with numerous industries to bring training programs to Army posts has resulted in our transitioning soldiers gaining the technical skills required to succeed in the civilian workforce today. It is important for soldiers to understand and believe that from the time they come into the Army and for the rest of their lives, we consider them to be soldiers for life.

We must never forget what our soldiers have sacrificed over the decades of war, but even more so, we must not forget our wounded warriors and the families who have lost loved ones. The Army understands the importance of providing quality care and ensuring that this care is available in the years to come. We are building programs to do just that.

We are America’s trusted professionals. I am immensely proud and humbled to represent the greatest land force the world has ever known, one that heralded two Medal of Honor recipients in the past year: Sgt. Ryan M. Pitts and Sgt. Kyle J. White. They embody the essence of a soldier and represent what every man and woman who wears the Army uniform strives to be. Our soldiers, the trusted professionals, are individuals who have earned the trust of all with whom they associate; possess a humility and selflessness that we all respect; embrace esprit de corps; and routinely demonstrate a dedication to their profession—all traits that epitomize the ethos of the American soldier.

The American people have entrusted us with the most solemn responsibility—protecting the nation—and our success begins with a foundation built on trust in one another, trust in our leaders and trust in the Army. We are the best Army in the world, and I know that we will continue to meet our nation’s call. The strength of our nation is our Army, the strength of our Army is our soldiers, the strength of our soldiers is our families, and that is what makes us Army Strong!