By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2006 – Enlisted leaders from all the military combatant commands and the different branches of service met here last week to discuss issues pertaining to the enlisted force and cooperation between the military and other government agencies. This was the third such conference held by Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, since he took office in October 2005.
This month's conference allowed the leaders to delve into more strategic-level issues and learn about how the military works with other government agencies to fight the war on terror, Gainey said in an interview today.
"It was the best conference of the three thus far," he said. "Everyone says we're on track now."
The State Department, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Department of the Army were among the organizations that gave briefings at the conference. Hearing from different agencies enabled the enlisted leaders to see beyond their individual perspectives, Gainey said.
"We think, (as the) Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard (that) we're the ones that fight the battle. But that's not really the case," he said. "We have the ... (other) agencies that support us and fight right alongside us. It's a true joint venture, this global war on terrorism."
Leaders at the conference also discussed issues relating to the enlisted force, such as the need for noncommissioned officer education on joint operations, Gainey said. The dialogue and discussions at the conference were in-depth and informative, and everyone learned a lot from each other, he said.
Conferences for enlisted leaders at this level never took place before the position of senior enlisted advisor to the chairman was established, Gainey said. As the first senior enlisted advisor, he said he has tried to establish himself as the "eyes and ears" of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and of the individual services. Gainey said he has no doubt his position is here to stay, but it will take some time before it's fully established and people understand it completely.
In his time as the chairman's senior enlisted, Gainey has traveled extensively and met with many servicemembers. He said he has seen firsthand the commitment and dedication the troops have to their missions, despite what people may read in the media.
"They understand it's a tough fight; they understand it's going to be a long war; but you know they'd rather fight there than here," he said. "That's what the folks in the United States need to understand - it's better to fight someplace else than here."
Gainey pointed to the military's consistently high retention as an indicator of morale. The U.S. still has an all-volunteer military, he noted, and the ranks keep filling up.
"Morale is okay; morale is good," he said. "It goes up and down like a rollercoaster, but it's okay. At the end of the ride, everybody says, 'Wow, let's do it again.' They're more than eager to serve."