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Lawmakers And Military Leaders Share Insights On Civilian-Military Divide
In understanding the culture divide between the civilian and military sectors of the United States, sometimes it's a matter of the military reaching out to civilians, accepting a simple "thank you" for service, or helping civilians understand why maps are needed.
Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, remembers arriving in Kuwait to stage combat support operations into Iraq in 2003. The 150 members of the National Guard transportation company who she led didn't have any maps of the country.
"We didn't have maps you have to have to fulfill the needs of our troops on the ground," she recalled to audience on Nov. 7 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
And still, as an officer in the National Guard, she understood that it was her job to ensure that her troops had the ammunition, the supplies, and yes, the maps.
Speaking on a panel at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Ernst noted that up-through-the-ranks experience is a way to convey to the nation's civilian leadership what are the nuts and bolts needs of troops in the field.
It is a covenant with our nation's armed forces, she said, that is being injured and impaired by the congressional budget cutting process known as sequestration. Having members who served in the military in Congress is a way of explaining why those "granular needs" of the troops must be met.
The panel, which was called Bridging the Gap Between the Nation and the Military, included Ernst, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly. Kelly commands the U.S. Southern Command, and said he can recall with certainty that nearly a half century ago, the divide was much worse.
"As the oldest serving member of the U.S. armed forces, I was actually drafted," Kelly said.
As a young private first class in the Marine Corps, travel in uniform was required, and Kelly recalled the response in airports and transit points.
"Everyone ignored us," he said. "Everyone except some veterans from World War II and the Korean War."
The newfound respect for people who serve in the military, Kelly said, is the fruit of civilians recognizing the troops "who didn't have to serve ... but [are] serving."
Kelly also remarked to an audience of policymakers, members of Congress, Pentagon officials, and journalists that the process of embedding reporters in combat units ushered in during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has done much to actually improve the image of troops in service and veterans.
"To be fair, there has been a fair amount of fair and balanced reporting," Kelly said.
Army 1st Lt. Joseph Riley, the most junior member of the panel, shared that outreach at elite universities to recruit the highest strata of university graduates should play a role. Milley concurred, "We are the people's army ... and that the broadest spectrum of recruits are needed.”
Riley, an ROTC graduate from the University of Virginia, bucked his parents' initial objections to seek a military career. In his last year at school, he was awarded Rhodes and Truman scholarships.
"Our generation expects to have three or four careers, and we have to convince the high performers to stay in the military."
Ironically, because of dedication to higher education, Riley was inadvertently placed on a "force reduction" panel that could have separated him from the military. It may well have been another corollary to the problems caused by sequestration, the automatic budget cuts enacted by Congress.
"The military personnel system can be maddening," the young lieutenant said.
The Army chief, Milley, immediately weighed in, "There are 50,000 examples of what goes wrong with military personnel," and then he quipped, "But I have my new best friend here," indicating Lt. Riley.
Milley said, “Welcome back to the U.S. infantry, lieutenant.”
William Lynn III, former undersecretary of Defense, noted that the military recruits best from the citizenry of states in the Midwest and South, and fewer from the East and West coasts. Also, Lynn said, to some degree the professional military has leaned across generations toward being a kind of "family business."
Ernst noted that the vast majority of gratitude expressed for service is sincere, "and that being thanked is important." She also added, "We are never victims. We are always survivors."
The Reagan National Defense Forum, held annually at the Reagan Presidential Library, brings together hundreds of key leaders in the defense community, including congressional leadership, industry leaders, and administration officials, echoing former President Ronald Reagan's call for a strong defense as the best guarantee of national security.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday that no U.S. troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northern Syria and the United States "is continuing our deliberate withdrawal from northeastern Syria."
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan earlier on Friday said Turkey will set up a dozen observation posts across northeast Syria, insisting that a planned "safe zone" will extend much further than U.S. officials said was covered under a fragile ceasefire deal.
On Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference, Army families had the opportunity to tell senior leaders exactly what was going on in their worlds — an opportunity that is, unfortunately, all too rare.
A new documentary series about Clint Lorance pits the infantry officer convicted of murder against his former soldiers
The fog of war, just kills, and war crimes are the focus of a new documentary series coming to STARZ. Titled Leavenworth, the five-part series profiles 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, the Army infantry officer who was convicted on murder charges for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle, killing two and wounding the third, while deployed to the Zhari district in Kandahar province, on July 2, 2012.
A big stereotype surrounding U.S. service members and veterans is that they are defined only by their military service, from buying "Dysfunctional Veteran" t-shirts to playing hard-boiled, high-octane first-person shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty (we honestly have no idea where anyone could get that impression).
But the folks at OSD (formerly called Operation Supply Drop), a non-profit veteran service organization that aims to help troops and vets connect with each other through free video games, service programs and other activities, recently found that most of the gamers they've served actually prefer less military-centric fare like sports games and fantasy RPGs.
CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (Reuters) - Shelling could be heard at the Syrian-Turkish border on Friday morning despite a five-day ceasefire agreed between Turkey and the United States, and Washington said the deal covered only a small part of the territory Ankara aims to seize.
Reuters journalists at the border heard machine-gun fire and shelling and saw smoke rising from the Syrian border battlefield city of Ras al Ain, although the sounds of fighting had subsided by mid-morning.
The truce, announced on Thursday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, sets out a five-day pause to let the Kurdish-led SDF militia withdraw from an area controlled by Turkish forces.
The SDF said air and artillery attacks continued to target its positions and civilian targets in Ral al Ain.
"Turkey is violating the ceasefire agreement by continuing to attack the town since last night," SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted.
The Kurdish-led administration in the area said Turkish truce violations in Ras al Ain had caused casualties, without giving details.