By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
July 14, 2009 - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff offered some guidance and his gratitude to about 300 military members during an all-hands call here today. "I believe you make up the best military in the history, not just of our country, but on this Earth," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said. "I can speak to over four decades of experience to compare. And you serving now at a critical time, when there's so many challenges for our nation and nations around the world -- words aren't quite adequate to express my appreciation."
Servicemembers today serve during what arguably is the busiest period of the U.S. military's history. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, many soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan on multiple occasions for as long as a year or more each time, leaving their families behind, Mullen said.
"The young men and women of today's military generation serve to make a difference," he said of today's all-volunteer force. "The country was founded on the principle that young men and women serve to make a difference. Raising your right hand -- that's where it all started.
"The military has always made a difference, and you do it in a way that makes all of us proud," he continued. "Not a day goes by, that I go by, that I'm not thinking about what you're doing here -- being here globally in the fight in a really challenging time."
Because of the high tempo of deployments, Mullen stressed, it's important for troops to focus on leadership and their families and to recognize the many challenges multiple deployments can have on the entire military community.
The families also are under extraordinary stress, the chairman said. Military officials work as hard as they do to make sure families are safe at home, he told the deployed servicemembers.
"It's not just about those of us who serve," the admiral said. "Family support is absolutely vital when you look at what [the U.S. government] has asked you and your families to do over the last seven-plus years."
Troops serving in Afghanistan today are serving at a pivotal time in the war on terror. Lengths of deployments and operational tempo may be similar to Iraq, but the two wars are vastly different, he said.
War-torn Afghanistan has been without a legitimate democracy for more than 35 years, and quickly became a stomping ground for groups such as al-Qaida. A resurgent Taliban, after being ousted by U.S. forces in 2001, also have become a serious issue for international forces here. Troops are operating in a dangerous environment, but are doing an extraordinary job, he noted.
Security, governance, civil rights and essential services have improved greatly over the past year, mostly while security efforts were under-resourced, he said.
"We're very committed to getting the resources here for this fight," he said. "You are living in a great time of change in Afghanistan, and leading in this time of change is absolutely critical.
"I believe with the depth of my heart and soul that we can succeed here," he continued. "We've got to be patient and focused on protecting the Afghan people."