Stressing the need for effective combat training and praising the many soldiers who have fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, newly minted Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, who took command of III Corps and Fort Hood last month, spoke to about 300 people gathered Wednesday night at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
“It takes resilient people to fight in combat for 12 consecutive years and come out in one piece,” Milley told members of the Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, who were holding a general membership meeting.
Milley was the keynote speaker, delivering a speech about his background and goals at Fort Hood, peppered with jokes and tales of his Boston upbringing.
“I’m a Yankee by birth and a son of the South by nature,” Milley said, adding he and his family have toured the region in recent weeks, including a trip to the Alamo in San Antonio.
Milley’s parents served in World War II, his father storming beaches as a Marine at Iwo Jima and elsewhere in the Pacific. He said his father passed on to him what it means to be a young, enlisted man in combat, something modern soldiers know all too well.
Today’s Army officers, too, know the realities of war “having personally witnessed and experienced close combat,” Milley said.
Milley said Fort Hood’s mission of training soldiers is of the utmost importance. He said the greatest form of soldier welfare he can do “is to bring them home alive, and bring them home in one piece.”
That’s done through proper combat training, Milley said, adding programs supporting soldiers’ families ensure soldiers can focus clearly on the task at hand.
“If your mind is on your family (problems), then it damn sure isn’t going to be on combat readiness,” he said, adding he counted more than 100 family programs available to local soldiers.
Milley also said the Army needs “to be connected” with the people, and he ordered his generals, colonels and other commanders at Fort Hood to make sure that happens.
“There’s a lot of great things on Hood,” he said, inviting the public to take part in the Fort Hood community.
He urged AUSA members to keep supporting soldiers, especially as the war in Afghanistan continues.
“They’re doing bad things to bad people in your name, and that’s a good thing,” Milley said, receiving a standing ovation at the end of his speech.
Ron Taylor, president of the Texas Association of the United States Army and senior vice president of Fort Hood National Bank, said he has been impressed with Milley since the general arrived at Fort Hood the week before Christmas.
“I think Gen. Milley is going to be good for Fort Hood and Central Texas,” he said.