By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
June 4, 2010 - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen today welcomed some of the Army's newest soldiers here, congratulating them for volunteering to serve in today's ongoing conflicts throughout the world.
"Thanks for joining the Army, the military," Mullen said. "You've joined the best military in the history of the world. I'm very grateful for your service and willingness to raise your right hand to serve your country in such a critical point in our history."
Mullen addressed some 250 recruits and their drill sergeants here. The recruits are in their fifth week of training -- about half way through their initial course of instruction. The soldiers are learning basic soldiering skills, such as rifle marksmanship, drill and ceremony, first aid and working as a team under stressful conditions.
"I've engaged enough with young members in all the services to know that you are of a generation that wants to serve and serve for a cause greater than yourselves," Mullen said. "I see that all the time, and I'm appreciative of your service and dedication ... even as many of you are just beginning."
Mullen described the past years of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan to give troops some insight on the bigger picture of the institution they've recently become a part of.
Although the number of forces is drawing down in Iraq, the admiral explained to the new recruits, the Pentagon is the midst of doing the opposite in Afghanistan. Fewer than 100,000 troops are currently deployed to Iraq. That number will decrease to around 50,000 by the end of summer, while the military steadily increases its footprint in Afghanistan.
Mullen acknowledged the challenges that the U.S. military and its servicemembers faced and overcame in Iraq, praising the efforts of those the recruits are following.
Many thought rebuilding Iraq was a lost cause, that the violence that plagued the country between 2005 and 2007 was irreversible, Mullen said. But because of the dedication of servicemembers, he said, Iraq is now a democratically governed nation working to provide for its people.
More than 26 million Iraqis now enjoy freedoms they never had, Mullen said.
"Three years ago, there were many that thought we couldn't turn Iraq around," the admiral said. "It was going south rapidly. And there are a lot of reasons it started to turn, but no more important reason than those who fought and died in the sea change that we created, how we approached Iraq during the surge.
"It couldn't have happened without our military, [and] it couldn't have happened without your colleagues who came before you and made such a difference," he added.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mullen said, the Army has become not only the world's best military, but also the best counterinsurgency force. In order for today's military to continue to adapt to missions around the world, he continued, troops must continue to grow their competencies and expand their soldiering skills.
"You come in at a time where [the U.S.] military, the Army in particular, has become the best counterinsurgency force in the world, and as we get more time at home [between deployments], we will expand our other mission sets," said Mullen, referring to language and cultural awareness training.
The admiral often emphasizes the importance of troops enhancing their language skills and cultural awareness to meet future needs in irregular warfare. Over the past three days, Mullen provided similar messages here to junior Army captains at the U.S. Army Infantry School, airmen and sailors at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., and to special operations soldiers and paratroopers assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C.
Mullen and his wife Deborah also visited with spouses of fallen servicemembers as well as recovering wounded troops. The three-day trip focused on reaching out to servicemembers, explaining the changes and future of the military and getting feedback from the force.
"We're changing how we fight; we're changing how we train," Mullen said here today. "We will continue to evolve. We're heavily, and rightfully so, focused on culture, on languages ... skills we weren't focused on five or six years ago.
"It is a great time of change ... for the foreseeable future, I see us engaged in ways that can't be perfectly predictable and in places I can't see as perfectly predictable," he continued. "But we will continue to evolve. You will all be an important part of our future."