April 2, 2012
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – The military is defined by a bond of trust — between service members, their families and their communities — that must remain unbroken, the military’s top officer said here today.
“If we do that one thing, think about our profession as united with a common bond of trust, and commit … to earning it every day. I don’t care what happens to the budget … I don’t care what happens to the other countries in the world that might want ill to come to us, we’ll be fine,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
Taking care of troops is a matter of trust, he added. “If we lose that [trust], it won’t matter how much money we throw at ourselves. That’s a fact.”
After months of discussing budgetary and equipment concerns and fresh off a trip to South America, Dempsey turned his attention to what he called the military’s “human dimension” at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury’s Warrior Resilience Conference. This conference, in its fourth year, is intended to equip service members, units, families and communities with resilience-building techniques and tools.
As he spoke to an audience of nearly 750 behavioral health experts and military leaders, the chairman referred to an image of a squad leader in Afghanistan on the screen behind him. The soldier, his face contorted in a mix of fear and courage, was speaking on his radio with an evident sense of urgency.
Whatever it is the soldier is asking for, he’ll get, the chairman said. “That’s what sets us apart [as a nation]. He’s going to get it — whether it’s kinetic ordnance, whether it’s supplies, or whether it’s what you’re here to talk about today.
“We’re going to get them the life skills, the confidence, the hope, which equals on some level … the resilience you’re here to talk about in our force, in our families,” he pledged.
It took about a decade for the force to regain its sense of pride and clarity after the Vietnam War. That time lapse can’t occur again, the chairman said.
“The world is changing so fast around us,” Dempsey said. “If we wait until 2020 to build the kind of strength you’re working to build into our formation, it will be too late.
“I fear if we wait and don’t address this now, we not only won’t be doing ourselves any favors, we won’t be doing our nation any favors,” he added.
The people gathered for this conference are taking steps on this front, Dempsey noted, “by seeking a deeper, richer understanding of what has happened to us as a force over the last 10 years.
“More importantly,” he added, “what are you going to do about that? What are you going to do about the fact that 10 years of war has put enormous pressure on the force?”
They will be tackling these issues in an environment of challenged resources, the chairman acknowledged, and while ensuring they build and earn trust with their subordinates and coworkers each day. “Keeping faith with ourselves, our communities, our families … that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
Dempsey again referred to the squad leader’s picture, this time pointing out the soldier’s wedding ring. “If you think about this bond of trust, it doesn’t stop in the forward edge or the rear edge of the battle area,” he said. “It’s got to run all the way back to hometown USA where he has a family.”
Dempsey stressed the importance of turning to others for help when needed, calling resilience a “team sport.” The chairman drove this point home with a story about a prior bout with throat cancer. It hit him hard, he said, since he’d always tackled obstacles on his own.
Instead, he said, he relied on his medical team, his family and his friends for help. “I realized for the first time in my life, I can’t do this alone,” he said. “It took cancer for me to figure that out. We can’t let our young men and women figure that out the hard way.”
Dempsey thanked the audience for their unwavering commitment to troop and family wellness. “What you’re doing here has an absolute direct correlation with who we are today, but more importantly, has an even greater correlation to who we will be in the future,” he said.