By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
July 8, 2008 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with more than 200 soldiers and airmen in the lower enlisted ranks here today to thank them for their service and to give them the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns. The troops, ranging from pay grades E-2 to E-5, serve at Forward Operating Base Marez here and were part of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen's second "all-hands call" in two days.
As he did yesterday with troops deployed to Camp Victory in Baghdad, Mullen shared his thoughts on family, deployments, retention, the importance of leadership, and simply his admiration for today's force.
"We have the greatest military the country has ever had," said the 40-year veteran who began his career during the Vietnam War. "Thank you for all your service during this critical time in our nation's history."
Young servicemembers today are challenged with serving in one of the busiest periods of the U.S. military's history. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, more than 180,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them for multiple tours. Because of the high deployment tempo, it is important for troops to focus on leadership, mentoring and sharing their experience with new recruits, the chairman said. Even with the latest technology and an ever-evolving arsenal, he noted, the individual servicemember still is the military's No. 1 asset.
"People are our most important resource," he said. "It is no truer in any situation anywhere than it is in combat."
Mullen also expressed his appreciation for military recruiters and the significant role they play in a challenging environment to allow the services to maintain demanding deployment cycles. Only 30 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are eligible for military service, the admiral said.
"We're in a time of a very unpopular war where the potential to serve is going down," he said. "But I've seen tremendous success in recruiting all across the services. My hats go off to those who recruit as they continue to make their numbers from month to month."
But as new recruits continue volunteering for the armed forces and troops continue to serve in such a fast-paced environment, families are affected, Mullen said, noting that families always have been a deciding factor on whether or not troops continue their service.
"Deployments are a lot to ask of the families, and they deserve our gratitude and thanks," he said. "The families' sacrifice is the troops' sacrifice, and we recognize that. The families are a big part of why we're such a successful military."
At Camp Victory yesterday and here today, Mullen concluded his all-hands call by reiterating the importance of leadership and passing on experiences troops gain as they advance through the ranks.
"Leadership -- learn it and teach it," he said. "Leadership is the core of what we are as servicemembers."