By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
Fort Hood's senior noncommissioned officer would prefer to not deploy and fight ever again.
"We, the Army, have been rode hard and put up wet," said Command Sgt. Maj. Neil L. Ciotola. "We're catching ourselves coming and going. ... In all honesty, ladies and gentlemen, I and the majority of us in uniform, and those that repeatedly support us are tired."
Ciotola addressed the Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the United States Army Monday night at its general membership meeting in Killeen. It was at that meeting he was also awarded the chapter's Douglas Hayes-Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Bufford Jr. Award for leadership from an active or retired senior noncommissioned officer.
Ciotola, who, alongside Lt. Gen. (promotable) Raymond T. Odierno, led III Corps at Multinational Corps-Iraq from late 2006 to early 2008 in Iraq, is known for his candor. He was called Multinational Corps' "steel spine" during its 14 months in Iraq by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in February.
James Anderson, the chapter's president, said Ciotola was a "soldier's soldier" who was admired by anyone whoever put chevrons on their uniforms.
Ciotola said he felt "duty bound" to provide those at Monday's meeting with the same thing he does to his commander: perspective.
"A sense of what we're confronted with today and in the future, to separate myth from reality," he said. "At the risk of future employment in this noble institution I am compelled to give it to you from the gut."
As if anyone would expect anything less from a man who has spent nearly 32 years in uniform – most of that time as a noncommissioned officer.
The Army is not an equal-opportunity employer in many respects, Ciotola said. Not because of skin color, religious preference or gender, but because an emphasis on moral and ethical fiber and a physical ability.
"To serve in the United States Army today, you must quite frankly 'deserve to serve,'" he said. "You must willingly and completely subordinate yourself to the profound ideals of the Constitution of the United States and those of this noble institution."
Ciotola said he wouldn't speak for everyone in the room that night, but that tens of thousands in uniform feel like he did about never wanting to deploy and fight again. Too many of them have "seen too much of death, sacrifice that cannot be measured on any scale, evil that cannot be comprehended by those who have not looked it in the eye."
"Yet, I willingly embrace the reality we still have confronting us; this is a long war; an era of persistent conflict and much is expected of us, both in and out of uniform," Ciotola said.
America at large has failed to embrace that the Army is resolute, he added, and the Army is not willing to throw in the towel.
Officials are well aware of the shortfalls the Army is confronted with, Ciotola said. The Army lacks all the equipment it needs to support the entire force, it lacks all the troops it needs to satisfy every requirement and there is too little time to let formations adequately recover from one combat deployment before they prepare to deploy again, he said.
"Yet, there is reason to allow one's chest to swell with pride, reason to revel in all that we're confronted with," Ciotola said.
"Yup, we're tired, we're under-manned, under-equipped ... but again, we are resolute."
The glass is far more than half-full, the command sergeant major said, and pessimism is the "most heinous enemy we face."
Ciotola went on to say that it isn't just those in uniform who shoulder the burden of the war. It is also families and community leaders who fight to support those who deploy. They are the ones who "sustain us, comfort us, encourage us," Ciotola said.
"We're tired, we're resolute and we'll never quit," he reassured them.
Also at the chapter's meeting:
- Bill Alexander, Doris Santos, Bob Sykes, Pete Gilbert and Paula Lohse were given special awards for their contributions to the chapter;
- Fort Hood National Bank was given the Roy J. Smith Award;
- Command Sgt. Maj. Neil L. Ciotola was given the Douglas Hayes-Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Bufford Jr. Award;
- Bill and Anna Crawford were given the Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker Award;
- Randy Sutton was given the Brig. Gen. James I. King Award;
- The officers, members of the chapter's executive committee and board of governors for July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, were approved;
- Allen Mantanona, of Salado, was named the winner of a 2008 Toyota Tundra. The chapter has been selling raffle tickets throughout the year for the pickup, the proceeds of which go to the organization's programs.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547.