By Kristine Favreau
The Cove Herald
KILLEEN — In light of recent deployment extensions to all Army units currently serving in Iraq and an announcement that the Army is considering further extensions, troop strength and support were the main focus during a speech Wednesday by former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon Sullivan.
Sullivan, who retired from active duty after more than 36 years of service, is the current president and chief operating officer of the Association of the United States Army.
During an AUSA general membership meeting in Killeen, Sullivan, with great emotion, compared the present military situation to a game of Texas Hold’em.
“At some point during a game of poker, one of the players, usually the one with the most chips, will announce that he is ‘all in,’” Sullivan said. “Right now, America has put its strategic forces ‘all in.’ You don’t have to go very far on Fort Hood to see what that means.”
Sullivan went on to add that the military cannot rely only on inflicting damage to the enemy in order to be successful, saying that it also requires the skills of the men and women on the ground.
“This war is a huge challenge that not only relates to today, but every day after,” he said. “This conflict will end — that day will come. But we have to ask ourselves, ‘What will our troops see when they return to the continental U.S.?’”
Sullivan also referred to an article published in the New York Times that addressed the extension of deployments in Iraq, saying that the resources at home must be sufficient for the Army to develop skills necessary for success.
“We need to recognize and accept that other branches of the United States must pitch in,” Sullivan said. “The active-duty Army is too small — 500,000 soldiers is not enough.”
Sullivan included the information that in a country of more than 300 million people, if the numbers for all branches of service were added together, there is no way to make it total more than 2 million in uniform.
“Senior leaders are not standing up and instilling the importance of service to country,” he said. “We need to get some help so that our soldiers don’t have to go away for 15 months at a time. We need to stand up, produce and serve the country.”
AUSA is dedicated to improving the quality of life for troops and their families.
AUSA member and retired Army Col. Jerry Smith said AUSA is critical because some democratic systems tend to be adverserial and without advocates, soldiers will not get a fair share, even in a good system. Smith said AUSA is that advocate.
“General Sullivan continually works to promote the quality of life for soldiers,” said retired Lt. Gen. Don Jones, Central Texas-Fort Hood chapter president. “He has gone to Capitol Hill to lobby for better pay and benefits, as well as playing an integral role in the increase of both death benefits and life insurance for soldiers.”
Sullivan reminded members that the American people have placed their faith and trust in the Army since 1775, and the Army has never let them down.
“These are the times when people like us (soldiers) are the most needed,” he said. “And my message tonight is quite simple and only two words: Thank you, thank you for your willingness to stand up and say, ‘I’m proud to be an American, and I’m proud to be a soldier.’”
Contact Kristine Favreau at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 547-3535