Naturally, I could only get in a fraction of what Lt. Gen. Jim Dubik talked about during his 50-minute round-table with reporters Friday at the Fort Lewis and I Corps headquarters. Journalists from the Associated Press, the Olympian, the Fort Lewis Ranger, KOMO-TV, National Public Radio and the post newspaper, the Guardian, took part.
Some highlights that didn’t make the paper:
&bull He said he didn’t know how hard the job of building the Iraqi military and police forcese, and the institutions to support them, will be until he gets on the ground in Baghdad and starts doing the job, but he said it’s sure to be hard.
“I think it’s a very hard, tough, complex problem but none of the difficulties mitigate the importance — the importance to them and to us,” he said. “A Middle East that is unstable, that continuess to fight for a decade, or more, is not something that is in the interest of this country or the in the of the west. We need to put our eyes on our national interest, and put our eyes on what the enemy wants.”
He added: “The enemy attacked us. They have declared war on this country. They have declared that their goal is to weaken or disolve our economy and change the way we live, And they’re doing it. This is a serious enemy that deserves our national attention.”
&bull Dubik noted that many of the soldiers fighting in Iraq today were 5 and 6 years old during the first gulf war. Pulling out of Iraq without finishing the job this time would risk “another generation of 5-year-olds in 15 years, fighting in a much more complex, much more lethal, more extensive war. Everybody who is fighting wants the fighting to end, but the ending of the fighting is not an end in itself. We really, I think, as a nation have to be careful.”
&bull The stress of multiple deployments on soldiers and their families: Early in his tenure (he arrived in November 2004) he said he gathered senior leaders to plan for what they expected would be a long haul.
“Our assumption was the war is the war; we are going to have to fight it; it is going to be long. How do we mitigate the stress …?” he said.
They came up with a number of programs for families, spouses and soldiers. It’s hard to measure their success, he said, “but i think it’s the case that talking to most families they feel that they count, feel that the command team here is a caring team that takes their problem seriously.”
&bull His wife, Sharon Basso, is moving back to the Washington, D.C., area to live at Fort Belvoir while he’s in Iraq.
“She is mixed like every other wife: on the positive side, very proud of the soldier that she is married to and glad that I’m like every other soldier willing to do my part in this war, and all that stuff is as nice as it possibly could be. On the other side, she doesn’t want to be separated from me, and I don’t want to be separated from her and neither one of us want anything to happen to the other. She’s just as anxious as any private’s wife is anxious about his deployment and any sergeant’s wife is anxious about her soldier.”
&bull He said he doesn’t know why he was selected for his next job: “I wanted to go. I asked for a while to volunteer in whatever capacity the Army and the Department of Defense would want. … I want to do my part on behalf of the soldiers I’ve commanded here. I believe in the necesity of this war and I don’t mean just this war in Iraq. Like World War II had multiple theaters … this war against al Qaida and their associates and the ideology that they want to impose first across the Middle East, then extend to Southeast Asia … This is an ideology that must be stopped and on behalf of my grandchildren I want to stop it.”
To talk about al Qaida and its associated groups as bent on world domination “sounds fanciful to us,” Dubik acknowledged. “But they have the will, the motivation, the money and the means to do it, and they have been doing it since about 1996, and they have been on their campaign plan.”
&bull Fort Lewis, nice and far from the flag pole: “There’s a breadth of units here, and a dearth of headquarters. You’re kind of out here by yourself — there’s me and Troy and Brig. Gen. Baxter at Madigan and that’s it. … We’ve got about the same number of brigades that Fort Hood has, the same number of brigades that Fort Bragg has, but far fewer generals. That breeds a certain amount of independence and confidence and initiative that I like. I like coming out here. It’s really a refreshing place to command.”
&bull He wouldn’t comment on the court-martial of Lt. Ehren Watada. Until Monday, he remains the convening authority in the case.
&bull In Iraq he’ll have frequent contact with some of the Fort Lewis units there, especially the two Stryker brigades. “I’ll go see those guys as fast I can,” he said. In his new job, he’ll be counting on their assessments of the effectiveness of the Iraqi police and military units they work with on the streets.
&bull Turbulent times: Dubik said that when he began to move into the higher ranks of Army leadership the service was looking at its future at the conjunction of the demise of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the information age.
Now, there’s another conjunction of historic shifts under way, he said: the changing of the world’s demographics, climate and resource changes, the proliferation of nuclear weapons without world agreements to deal with it, and ambiguity leftover from the end of the Soviet bloc and rise of the information age.
He compared it to the changes and clashes brought over the duration of the Industrial revolution — new religions, new world orders.
“These were very turbulent times and that’s what we are living in right now,” he said.