The Army's top officer had a simple message for the 82nd Airborne Division and Fort Bragg during a visit Friday.
"Be ready," said Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army chief of staff.
Speaking at a promotion ceremony for an 82nd Airborne Division general, Milley said the nation would need the forces of Fort Bragg, which are known for being ready to deploy anywhere in the world on short notice.
"I have no earthly idea what will happen next week, next month or next year," the four-star general said to a room full of Fort Bragg leaders, including the commanders of the 82nd Airborne Division and U.S. Army Forces Command and the acting senior commander of the 18th Airborne Corps.
"None of us know what the future holds," he said.
Milley praised Fort Bragg and paratroopers in general during his visit, in which he promoted then-Col. Matthew McFarlane to brigadier general.
Milley, who served as commander of Forces Command at Fort Bragg before becoming chief of staff of the Army last year, said he has surrounded himself with paratroopers on his staff.
He said the soldiers are known for the competence and excellence, particularly among those who have served in the 82nd Airborne.
"You guys are a tremendous division," Milley said. "You are a premiere unit not only in the United States but in the world."
The message to Fort Bragg comes at a time when thousands of local troops are already serving around the globe.
That includes a unit serving as a rotational helicopter force in South Korea and troops with myriad missions in the Middle East, where the 18th Airborne Corps currently serves as headquarters for the combined joint task force to defeat the Islamic State.
In the room full of Fort Bragg leaders, Milley also took the opportunity to remind troops for what they fight.
Before administering the oath to McFarlane, he asked those present to reflect on the oath's wording.
Milley noted that the oath isn't proclaiming allegiance to a king or other leader, but instead promises support and defense of the Constitution.
"What we're really taking an oath to is an idea," Milley said.
That idea is that everyone, no matter gender, race, heritage, wealth or sexuality, is considered equal.
"That idea scares a lot of people," Milley said. "That idea is always under assault. That idea is always under attack."
But that idea is also the reason troops are willing to put their lives on the line, to sacrifice in training and in combat, Milley said, "to preserve that idea and pass it on to the next generation."
©2016 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.