A year ago David Wood wrote an article titled, “In the 10th Year of War, a Harder Army, a More Distant America.” It sheds light on the budding warrior class which has been built in the forge of 10 years of war.
His article has been passed along among some Soldiers and it has sparked more than a few conversations. Soldiers, who are on their third or fourth deployment, or more, understand much of the truth Wood speaks of. So much of what he chronicles rings home.
Although we have been at war for 10 years, the majority of Americans are unaffected by it. Their daily lives remain unchanged. There are, perhaps, only the random news headlines which serve as a reminder that we are still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps because without a draft or a world war, civilians see little reason to buy in, never mind 9/11. But the last decade has, to a large degree, set our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Department of Defense civilians apart.
This should logically lead us to the next step – bridging the gap between America and its warrior class. The March 22, 2010 issue of Fortune magazine features a Soldier on the front cover with a caption that reads, “Meet the new face of business leadership.” It’s about top American companies that see a newly discovered resource in our military leaders. I’m not just referring to colonels and generals either, but specialists and sergeants who are surpassing their commander’s expectations with the amount and quality of work being done. The Soldiers of my previous unit, the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, are perfect examples. In only one year, with approximately 4,000 people, spread across an area roughly the size of Kentucky, the brigade delivered more than 325 small scale micro-grants worth $2.1 million to improve the local economy; executed 324 projects worth $163 million to provide for civil capacity and essential services; conducted more than 50 Medical Civic Action Programs, which provided first aid and routine medical care to Iraqis; executed more than 70 medical training exercises and activities for Iraqi Security Forces and local medical professionals; and conducted 55 Humanitarian Assistance missions, which provided food, blankets and water to Iraqis.
These contributions only scratch the surface, and it only represents the contributions of one brigade on one deployment. Behind each of those successes is a U.S. Soldier – or thirty-something-year-old’s charged with, “making it happen.” These are the types of people companies are or should be chomping at the bit for. But why?
It’s important to understand that they do it for each other. Soldiers have few others to rely on, only themselves. Some of these qualities are evident in films like Band of Brothers, Pacific, Saving Private Ryan, and Hamburger Hill. It’s a Soldier’s sense of duty and loyalty. It’s about making life and death decisions on a daily basis and without hesitation. It’s about not taking anything for granted. There’s a reason only one percent of our population serves in uniform.
That just leaves a few unanswered questions – why are Soldiers re-enlisting so willingly despite knowing it could lead to yet another deployment? Is it because of the poor economy? Perhaps for some, but not any that I’ve met. Do Soldiers not think they will fit in with the civilian lifestyle? I know this is true for some, but I would refer you to the Fortune article mentioned earlier, and behind that article are dozens of companies looking for experienced Soldiers. I believe it goes beyond all the tangibles. It is something all Soldiers have. It is our sense of purpose. I believe Soldiers do what they do because they see it has purpose. It is fulfilling. It motivates them to try harder, to get better, and to follow through regardless of the obstacles that stand in their way.
Bridging the gap between America and our warrior class may seem like an insurmountable task, but “can’t” isn’t in the dictionary of the Soldiers I know. Our veterans have more to offer now than ever before.
I believe the way ahead is through patience. We all need to take our time to understand the purpose that drives our warrior class. Set a goal to read a little bit each week about our troops. Encourage others, who seemingly have no stake in the war, to do the same by telling them about the missions being accomplished. Push them to take an active interest. Those who think we’re “losing” the war just haven’t opened their eyes yet. There is a wealth of information covering our successes in plain sight. Reconnecting with our nation’s warriors is just a story away. You can start at www.facebook.com/pattonsown
Blog post submitted by Maj. Charles Barrett, Third U.S. Army/U.S. Army Forces Central Command, Public Affairs
In what ways do you think we can work to continue to “Bridge the Gap” between our Soldiers and the American Public?