Secretary of the Army Pete Geren has said that while the Army is stretched, the service is on a path toward balance on a number of fronts, including modernization.
Speaking at the Association of the U.S. Army's Institute of Land Warfare monthly breakfast, Geren told the 250-strong audience that the Army has accelerated the delivery of key cutting-edge future combat systems capabilities to infantry brigade combat teams, a first step in giving FCS to the total force.
He added that BCT modularity will be 70 percent complete by the end of 2008 -- the largest organizational transformation since World War II.
"We continue the transition of the Guard and the Reserve from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve," he said. Nearly 30,000 Guardsmen and Reservists are in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Thousands more of these Citizen-Soldiers are fighting fires and repairing flood damage at home."
The secretary said this year alone and with all the challenges that lie in front of the Army, the expectation is that 175,000 men and women will join the active, Guard and Reserve force, a number equal to the size of the entire Marine Corps.
Nearly 120,000 Soldiers will re-enlist this year he added, and in the past six years more than 1 million men and women have joined the Army while more than 175,000 have re-enlisted.
Shifting to the 35th anniversary of the all-volunteer force and what he called the country's "national treasure," Geren focused on today's volunteer Soldiers, the foundation that has made the Army "unquestionably the best led, best trained and best equipped Army in the world."
"They're all volunteers, engaged in the third longest war in our nation's history and the longest war we've ever fought with an all-volunteer force," he said. "We are succeeding in the war on terror today because of this national treasure that is the all volunteer force.
"These are extraordinary Soldiers who are courageous, adaptable and intelligent professionals who have learned from hard-earned experience how to succeed in this complex security environment," he added. "And, they're re-enlisting to go back, to build on the lessons they've learned and finish the good work they've begun.
"There are those who have raised questions about the quality marks for our force, some even comparing it to the bad old days of the mid-70s" Geren said. "To begin with, any such comparison to the '70s is bogus."
The secretary explained that in 1973 half the Army's Soldiers were high school graduates but today, more than 80 percent hold high school diplomas.
"Our so-called quality marks are off their record peaks of the '90s, but as most of you know, the great Soldier has intangible qualities that you cannot always measure with technical precision," he said. "Something deep inside keeps him or her going when most quit, decide to risk everything or give everything, to step forward when others would step back. Where do we find such men and women? They find us.
"In time of war in an all-volunteer force we have an advantage in building our Army, a character screen. You might call it a gut-check on everyone on their way in that you never had with the draft and you don't have with a peacetime Army," he said. "You can call this the 1-percent factor - they are the 1 percent of Americans who step up and say, 'send me' when most don't. Where do we find such men and women? Where do we find them today? They find us. That is the magic of our all-volunteer force, the national treasure.
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