Skip to comments.Sergeant major of Army says big transformation under way
Posted on 02/25/2006 12:51:25 PM PST by SandRat
FORT HUACHUCA This year and next will be the toughest for the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, the services top enlisted soldier said Friday.
Equating too many things coming together at once to the movie The Perfect Storm, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston said the Army is in the midst of a major transformation of creating more brigade combat teams, movement of forces from overseas locations, base closures and realignments, recruiting more soldiers and continuing to fight terrorism.
What cannot be lost is protecting the nation, he told nearly 700 noncommissioned soldiers and officers during a professional development session held in Eifler Gym.
The next two years will be trying, Preston said, adding it will continue to be difficult for the United States to work its way out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Saying his crystal ball hasnt told him how things will go when it comes to leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, Preston said it does take a while to turn over an area.
For instance, he said six years ago 14,000 American soldiers were in Kosovo. Now the number is down to about 1,500.
The Army has to work on many issues at once. It is successful is due to the leadership of those wearing the uniforms, especially the NCO Corps, he said.
This is Prestons third visit to the fort. This time he was invited to tour the Intelligence Center by the center and Fort Huachuca Command Sgt. Maj. Franklin Saunders.
In the past he visited Signal Corps units and other organizations.
Preston arrived Thursday and spoke with the forts senior leadership, NCO and officer.
On Friday, he toured facilities at the Intelligence Center, including early-morning physical training with some soldiers.
He also visited some classified facilities where he saw new intelligence equipment being developed to help in the war against terrorism and other needs.
What is happening on Fort Huachuca is part of the Armys transformation, and the training and new equipment are integral parts of how the Army will fight, he said.
He had lunch with members of the forts Sgt. Audie Murphy Club after the forum.
The club is an organization of NCOs who go through an arduous selection process. Murphy was the most highly-decorated soldier of World War II.
During a short meeting with media before he left Friday, Preston said, Soldiers are highly motivated.
The success of the Army is due to all ranks of soldiers.
During the after luncheon comment period and during the gymnasium talk, the Armys top enlisted soldier said garnering people to enlist is hard.
Its no secret the Army is all volunteer, Preston said.
Keeping soldiers in to be the core as new people enlist is a balancing act, he said.
And never did he expect that high bonuses would be paid to senior NCOs who had 18 years service to keep them in the Army.
In the past, a senior NCO with 18 years of service would stay for the last two years to retire.
But now some civilian contractors are enticing soldiers with special operations background with six-figure pay, he said.
That has led the Army to offer $150,000 bonuses to special operations NCOs to re-enlist for six years, Preston said.
As the Army senior soldier adviser to Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoonmaker, Preston is responsible for enlisted related matters, soldier training and quality of life issues.
The No. 1 mission of the Army is fighting the global war on terrorism, but within that job the service is restructuring itself, Preston said
With an active-duty Army of about 492,000 people, the service depends on the 120,000 National Guard and Reserve soldiers who are an important part of combating terrorism, he said.
To make the Army an even better fighting force, it is going through a major transformation process, changing the Cold War structure to one that is more responsive to todays situations.
The Army is becoming more expeditionary, he said
The structure of the force also is becoming more modular, meaning it will have self-contained fighting and support forces, the sergeant major of the Army said.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Army was designed to fight the Soviets and the structure was heavy on tanks, artillery and infantry but now the force has to be lighter while keeping its lethality, said Preston, whose early career included stints as a cavalry scout and tank commander.
As the Army continues to transform the result will be units that are more rounded and ready, he said.
A few years ago the Army had 33 brigades, and with the planned restructuring there will be 42 brigade combat teams that will be slightly smaller in manpower but have more of a combat punch, Preston said.
Admitting in the past couple of years there has been some recruitment problems, Preston said part of the reason was the nations senior service increased the number of people it was seek- ing.
However, the base number of 72,000 a year was always made and slightly increased, Preston said.
Another concern for those who serve is the number of deployments soldiers find themselves doing.
Sometimes a unit deploys for a year, comes back and has a year to get well, Preston said.
That includes returning to their families. More than 51 percent of soldiers are married.
For some units, the turnaround between deployments is nine months, six months and sometimes as quick as three months, Preston said.
Responding to a question from a NCO in the gymnasium about when there will be some better stability between deployments, he said the senior leadership, which includes himself, is working on the issue.
But the solution is not completely in sight.
Once the transformation is complete, there will be more stability, including longer tours with a unit, Preston said.
Going from a high density and low demand unit to one that will be part of a low density and high demand organization is the Armys goal.
The Cold War Army was high density, meaning major weapon systems to respond to what would probably be a low demand use.
But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Army has responded to 44 global operations, most of which were low density meaning a more compact unit capable of doing many requirements with a higher demand for their use, Preston said.
If a soldier went into the woods and was told to make a path more than a quarter of a century ago, he would have a saw and ax to cut down trees.
But because of the different missions a soldier may be called upon today, they must have a better tool box that includes items to build a cabin or a Stradivarius violin, Preston said.
Today, soldiers serve in units that may be involved in full combat and then go on to peacekeeping and humanitarian support without redeploying.
Other stability plans are for soldiers to be assigned to a unit for three years before being reassigned to another post.
Soldiers can extend the initial assignment for another three years or even longer, providing families with more stability as well, Preston said.
This will help spouses to not just find temporary jobs but become engaged in careers, and for older children of soldiers provide them a base for their education, especially when they are high school age, he said.
As for the current situation in Iraq, where clashes between Sunni and Shia Muslims have turned ugly, Preston said that soldiers who are in that nation will continue to do their jobs.
When Iraq will settle down and American troops can leave remains the big unknown.
It just will take time, he said.
The SMA's words and view on current events.
"More than 51 percent of soldiers are married."
Way too many...
"More than 51 percent of soldiers are married."
"Way too many..."
True, it would good if we could go back to envisioning the perfect warrior, then try to stay as close to that ideal as possible. We should fight every compromise we can, and only accept the ones we can't overcome, your suggestion is almost the first place I would start.
Im in MIOBC out here and loving SE Arizona. I will be done 31 MAY 06 unless I can get into Counter Intelligence Class (35E).
Maybe some SE AZ Freepers can get together and we can eat at Dawns Pancake House or Cafe Ole for B-Fast?
"Way too many..."
True, it would good if we could go back to envisioning the perfect warrior, blah blah blah
Utter nonsense. You would deny soldiers the right to marry? Won't have many soldiers after that, I'm afraid. People don't join the military just to fight; they also join to meet the goals they have set for themselves, be it college, supporting a family, etc.
Some people on these boards have a completely unrealistic view of the military and what they are all about. Starship Troopers it ain't.
"Some people on these boards have a completely unrealistic view of the military"
"Some people on these boards have a completely unrealistic view of the military"
During WWII the English noticed that people rescued after an extended period of immersion in cold water contained a disproportionate number of older men. In studying this they finally concluded that an older married man, with a family at home, had something to return to that caused them to have a higher will to live...while the younger, unmarried me didn't have that same personal anchor.
I know that I couldn't have done over 30 years service without my wife and sons at my side.
The numbers quoted there are wrong. More like 492,000 regulars and 520,000 total reservists (heck Texas, California and Pennsylvania each have a national guard division). Still not enough, but not as bad as the article makes it sound.
I may get flamed, but mandatory service would be just fine with me. The more of my 17 yr old sons' classmates I meet convinces me they need a kick in the ass.
I wonder if this dog has transformed himself from a womanizer who shamelessly cheats upon his wife? What a tarnished sterling example for our soldiers.
Ok guys let's start negotiating time and date.
I'd agree so long as every got 2 years enlisted time and then they can decide to get out, stay in enlisted or try for those gold bars/silver bars with the single black dot on 'em.
ooooohhh,.... you have dirt? Peyton Place Us.
I was reading some of the forums on Army AKO and read that the active Army is making a large number of MOS 42A and 42L's reclassify. Seems like the plan is for civilian employees to perform the jobs at garrisons in the States.
Never thought I would see Unit Clerks and Military Personnal shops being outsourced.
Second, people joining the military are of that age range where they are looking for a partner (if they aren't married already). Many don't marry, but there are those that do. If you deny that to them, they will quit or will marry in secret. Period. The Marines found that out a few years ago when they decreed that no one below a certain rank would be allowed to marry.
Third, the general "goings-on" around military bases assumes that military families live on base. Most families do not. I never have. Those places are for the single guys and for the people looking to take their money.
Fourth, people work long hours in many jobs outside of the military. Does that mean they shouldn't marry? There are also dangerous jobs outside of the military, such as police and firefighting, not to mention construction, running liquor stores and convenience marts in certain areas, etc. Should those people also avoid marriage., just because their wives may become widows?
Futhermore, the pay is not the same as it was in the 80s. Being married and raising a family is a viable option. But as in other careers, you cannot outbreed your paycheck. You cannot raise a family of six on an E-4's salary any more than you could on a McDonald's salary.
Deny a soldier his rights, and he won't care if you have any. Deny a man to marry because of his occupation, and he'll either defy you and marry anyway or find a different occupation.
Don't know about others but I married my wife when I was a SPEC 4, she was 19 years old and I moved her half way around the world. Two years later I got out, we both graduated from college, have seen a good bit of the world and tomorrow is 34 years.
"Some people on these boards have a completely unrealistic view of the military and what they are all about. Starship Troopers it ain't."
In my wildest dreams I never thought I would ever be accused of having a completely unrealistic view of the military. I have had a life long, passionate interest in the military, two Honorable Discharges, and this year was told by an Army recruiter I'm just too old to go for a third. I didn't mean that the military would only consist of single men (I even said that wasn't my top priority), I simply meant that it is an incredible burden to accept recruits with no consideration for costs, and complications of bringing in family. Is it really arguable that a young single male is preferable to the same male with a wife and kids? With rank or time in service of course people will pick up wives, but they will be in a better position to take care of those families. To accept a situation where desperate failing families are encouraged to get one of their members enlisted so they can find a secure environment of benefits, pediatricians, gynecologists, off post housing, and separate rations, just doesn't seem to be a completely realistic view of the military and what they are all about.
I'm not talking about artificially-constructed human rights, such as those enumerated in the Constitution. I'm talking about denying him the things he would do naturally--pursuing his own interests, taking a spouse, etc.
And yes, the military "owns" you once you sign those papers, for however long. But it is not an absolute ownership, such as owning a car or a horse or a DVD player. Those in charge know better (or should know better) than to take that "ownership" too far. People can leave the military after their contract is up for any reason at all (or for no reason), and people will refuse to join if they think life under the yoke would be undesirable (as many already do). This is bad for the military on two counts--people with experience will leave, and no new blood will show up to replace them.
The ignoramuses in charge are already experimenting with this sort of social engineering (no marriage, curfews, de facto bans on drinking and smoking, etc), and it's going to bite them in the ass in the manner I've described above.
Go ahead, tell them they can't marry (or have a beer, or stay out past midnight, etc). See how many will be left after that. We'll have to bring back a draft.
Please note the qualifier "some."
I simply meant that it is an incredible burden to accept recruits with no consideration for costs, and complications of bringing in family.
Recruits are one thing--they already are not accepted if they have too high of a family burden (more than two kids, I think). However, I think it is incredibly stupid to deny a soldier as normal a life as possible, just to fulfill some romantic notion of what a soldier should be. Yes, it's incredibly inconvenient and costly for the military to deal with spouses and housing, but that's just the expense they're going to have to accept if they want to retain qualified people.
If the Pentagon number-crunchers were to institute such an idiotic plan, they'll probably be able to keep a few nutbags who want to stay bachelors forever. However, most people in the military above the age of 25 are married. Those are your senior people, the ones with the skills and knowledge, the ones the military needs to keep.
If I was told today that I had to get rid of my family or get out, I'd be on my way out. If, in that distant past, I had been told that I wasn't allowed to marry, I would have done my two years and left. I think that's the kind of answer you'd get out of just about anyone.
I'm still enlisted, and I'm watching with growing apprehension as the current leadership monkeys around with social engineering. Just because you can order someone to do something or to live their life a certain way doesn't mean you should. They'll reap the benefits, of course--another star is just around the corner for their "successes"--but it's going to bite them in the ass once young people start flooding out of the military in droves after their first enlistment.
And bent over.
Sorry. Couldn't resist ;-)
Thanks for the response, but this may not be your best subject.
On the contrary, it's near and dear. I'm a senior enlisted man, and unrealistic expectations of military commanders concerning the personal lives of junior personnel (because "I can order you to do it") is becoming a real concern. Retention isn't a problem right this very instant, but it's coming.
Thanks for the gracious response, what kind of work do you do, in what kind of unit?