The Future of U.S. Warfare
In 2004, the Army was talking about reducing tours in Iraq to less than a year. Why wasn't that possible?
In the situation we are in it is important to have continuity--people learn the streets, they learn the enemy. It's also a fact that your greatest period of vulnerability is when you get into theater. There's a steep learning curve, and it takes you time to learn the ropes. When this stabilizes--and we are moving in that direction--I believe we will also be moving in the direction of nine-month or six-month tours.
You said you wanted to establish a "warrior ethos" for the Army. Has that worked?
We have a much more rigorous basic training. It is much more tough than when I entered the Army. We're spending time in field, time firing live ammunition, time teaching people [hand-to-hand combat] . We are not teaching people to guard motor pools or having a bunch of inspections in dress uniforms. But our [boot camp] attrition is below 12 percent, and I think the warrior ethos has a lot to do with it.
We also teach them that the warrior ethos is not just about soldier stuff. It's about life. It's about how you think about your family and your commitment to your spouse, your children, your parents. It is about setting goals, having priorities, and having the discipline to do it. The citizens we return are going to be important for the country. This generation of kids, this is an amazing generation. And the country needs it.
We had the greatest generation--now it's the amazing generation?
I am impressed with them. We were over there [in Iraq] at Christmas. We were with the 3rd Infantry Division, just before they left. Staff Sgt. Jason Barr had just returned to his squad. He was wounded in April of last year. Over 130 holes in him. He rehabilitates, comes back to his squad. We re-enlisted the remainder of his squad with him. Four kids, two of whom we put Purple Hearts on. We asked them, "Why are you re-enlisting?" They said they want to be like Sergeant Barr. We've seen times where the armed forces have not been like this. This is an amazing bunch.