Our nation is blessed to have many such non-profit organizations, e.g., JINSA, with devoted Americans who make significant contributions of their time, talent and treasure to make our nation better, and as is the case with JINSA, to make it safer as well. I would encourage you to review their charter and activities at their website (www.JINSA.org). It is obvious that this organization is deeply committed to the security of the United States.
We were escorted throughout the day by some very sharp soldiers and civilian employees of the U.S. Army. We were welcomed to the day's activities by the Honorable Dr. Francis J. Harvey, the Secretary of the Army. He is impressive. He exudes the pride he has in his soldiers ... active, guard and reserve ... and was very proud of what they are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan as he had just returned from visiting them abroad.
General Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army Chief of Staff, joined us for lunch and he spoke to us about his concerns and his needs as the Army fights this "long war" against terrorism and, concurrently, transforms the Army. The Army, as well as the other services, suffered from a "procurement holiday" in the 1990's as the nation perceived lesser threats to our national security. We are now paying for that procurement lapse with a need to modernize our forces while fighting an expensive war on terror and while liberating Iraq and Afghanistan from oppressive regimes.
I understood General Schoomaker to believe America must do better in the years ahead, and should provide more money for defense. Quite graphically, he noted that Americans spent more in a six week period for the 2005 holidays (gifts, parties, decorations, etc.) than we spend on the Department of Defense for the entire year. We can afford to do better.
Our briefings included a report on recruiting and retention issues. This is an interesting time for recruiting new soldiers into the active forces and reserve components. Unlike past "long" conflicts, we are now fighting a war with an all volunteer force - no draft, and none in the future. All professional soldiers will tell you this is good. The all volunteer force has worked extremely well.
Although the Army did not meet their recruiting goals in 2005, they are well on their way to achieving 100% or greater of their 2006 goals. More importantly, the retention rates are exceeding their goals. That means the experienced and combat veterans are staying in the Army. It also tells me that these soldiers, many who have been to combat in Iraq or Afghanistan for two, three or more times, know and understand the importance of their mission to defeat terrorism around the globe and to protect our homeland.
This fiscal year the Army wants to recruit 80,000 young men and women for the active force, another 70,000 for the Army National Guard, and 36,500 for the Army Reserves. Considering the stringent physical, moral and educational requirements this is no simple task. But your Army is on track to achieve their goals.
We also were briefed by a recently returned officer on the Army's endeavors in Iraq. Clearly the picture (and there were pictures to document the activities) is much better than what most Americans perceive it to be. Security and the quality of life, along with the exercise of freedom by 26 million Iraqis, is significantly better than most Americans understand or believe it to be. This Lt. Colonel left me with no doubt that the coalition forces would be successful and that the future for Iraqi citizens has greatly improved over the past year or so.
Our day with the Army ended with an exceptionally moving address by the Director of the Army Staff, Lt. General James Campbell. This guy should stay around forever. He brilliantly and emotionally conveyed his respect for the young men and women serving in our Army. He cares! He struck me as an incredibly competent role model for younger officers and NCO's to emulate.
If you go to the US Army website (www.army.mil) you can find a wealth of information and details about our Army of today and tomorrow. There is far too much for me to cover here. But please know that I am proud of your young men and women in the Army. They are dedicated to preserving our freedoms. As you see them on the street, in the airport, at the mall or wherever, thank them for their service. Say thanks to them publicly ... and say thanks to them privately in your prayers.
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