By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2006 – Winning the global war on terror requires a national consensus, with support demonstrated in actions as well as words, the Army's chief of staff told hundreds of soldiers and defense industry representatives here yesterday. That means ensuring troops on the front lines have what they need to succeed, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker told attendees at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting.
Soldiers have a reasonable expectation that their country will ensure they're trained, equipped and resourced for the missions they're called to conduct, the general said. "This resonates loud and clear," he said. "It echoes an almost sacred duty for those of us in a position of responsibility.
"As we look back on the Army's accomplishments and leap forward to meet future challenges, everything we do must be judged against the standard of preparedness," he said. "In fact, by meeting our soldiers' expectations, we will uphold our responsibility to them and they will be a relevant and ready force."
Schoomaker cited sweeping transformation efforts under way in the Army so it's prepared to face current and future challenges. New equipment, evolving doctrine and the incorporation of lessons learned into training and operations are creating a stronger, more agile force, he said.
That's critical as the Army confronts "perhaps the most dangerous period in our lifetime" in the global war on terror, he said.
"While we must prevail, victory is not assured," the general warned, noting that the United States is "much closer to the beginning than the end" of the war.
Schoomaker expressed concern that national support for the war on terror has been "tepid," noting that just 4 percent of the United States' gross national product is committed to defense. This compares to 38 percent during World War II.
"Ultimately, victory requires a national strategic consensus ... in words and actions," he said. "Another 9/11 should not have to occur to shake us into action."
Ensuring that the force receives the funding it needs "is a matter of national priority, not a matter of affordability," Schoomaker said.
The general thanked soldiers for "answering the nation's call to duty in this time of war" and praised their skill, professionalism and adherence to the warrior ethos and Army values. "Their dedication and optimism about our future is contagious," he said.
Today's leaders serve as "caretakers for this generation of soldiers, ... who will continue to meet America's challenges long after we take our uniforms off," he said.
"Like their predecessors, today's soldiers continue to distinguish themselves in many ways, demonstrating initiative, resilience and innovation at all levels," he said. "I am proud to report that our soldiers serving on our nation's behalf continue to exceed every expectation of courage, dedication and selfless service. They are the heart of all that we do. ... They are also our future."
Schoomaker vowed to help ensure these troops have what they need to carry out the tasks they're assigned -- from combat operations to humanitarian support missions and everything in between.
"Their expectations are high, but they are not selfish," he said of America's soldiers. "And chief among them is an expectation to be prepared to fight wars and any missions the nation assigns our Army."