The Washington Post, the New York Times and The Associated Press all had stories today about Adm. Mike Mullen’s visit Tuesday with artillery officers at Fort Sill, Okla. The new chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was on a quick tour of a couple Army posts to get the soldiers’ view of how the service is holding up under the strain of the wars.
Mullen met mostly with captains, most of them combat veterans.
From the Post:
Mullen acknowledged that troops in Iraq are tired and “ready to come home.” He said his goal is to shift “as rapidly as possible” from the current Army standard — 15 months in combat, followed by 12 months back home — to equal time deployed and at home.
Some officers were not satisfied. “That’s not good enough,” one captain said, saying he’d like to be home three years for every year away.
“I’ve got it that it’s not good enough,” Mullen replied. Still, he said, even lengthening home stays to 15 months would take time. “We can’t wave a wand and get there overnight,” he said.
From the Times:
One Iraq veteran said he had witnessed increased disciplinary problems among troops, which he attributed to the enlistment of recruits with lower academic credentials as well as some who have been granted "moral waivers," a step that allows those with minor criminal records to join up.
This captain, whose name was withheld under ground rules for reporters observing the session, spoke of training all day and then having to spend much of the night on disciplinary action. Of the roughly 100 soldiers in his unit, about a dozen had been caught selling drugs or going absent without leave.
"Making sure we do not break our military is a huge priority for me," said Admiral Mullen, who vowed to review statistics on discipline so he could gauge any impact of the current recruiting standards.
And from the AP:
“When it becomes a burden to my family, it becomes repulsive,” said one captain, who told Mullen that he wants a stable assignment so his wife can go to school, but he was told “family considerations don’t play a role” in such planning decisions.
Mullen grimaced as the officer said he was preparing to leave the Army because of the problems.
“We can’t not take family considerations into account,” Mullen said. “That is just not the case in 2007. It can’t be the case if we’re going to have a healthy force.”
Mullen’s Army tour was to include Fort Sill, Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, and Army recruiters in Denver. No indication that he’ll be coming to Fort Lewis anytime soon.
But if he did, and you got to tell him what’s on your mind, what would you say?