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American Forces Press Service

Mullen Discusses Initiatives, Progress in First Podcast

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2007 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reported on progress in his three initiatives yesterday during an interview for his first “podcast” as chairman.

Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen had done regular podcasts when he served as Chief of Naval Operations and said he plans on continuing the practice as chairman. He assumed the position Oct. 1.

Developing a military strategy for the Middle East is top priority, Mullen said, and the United States has clear vital national interests in stability in the region.

“That is clearly a part of the world that needs our continued focus,” the chairman said.

“It’s very important that we continue to focus on Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s larger than that,” Mullen said. “Certainly there are significant challenges being continuously raised by Iran. There is this concerted effort on the part of our government to work the Israeli-Palestinian issue. We’ve had some challenges with Syria.”

The chairman said any strategy for the region must encourage the moderate countries in the region and strengthen the important friends the country has in the Persian Gulf.

“The idea is to have a military strategy across the full capabilities that we have and to do so in a way to stabilize that part of the world,” he said.

The chairman’s second priority is to reset, revitalize and reconstitute U.S. armed forces – especially the Army and Marine Corps. The ground forces have been “very pressed” since September 11, 2001 and they will continue to be worked hard for the foreseeable future, he said.

The chairman said he will look for ways to relieve the stress the forces face. While people are paramount, there are other considerations, he said.

“It’s not just about people,” he said. “It’s about training and equipping now, and in the future as well. So when I talk reset, revitalize and reconstitute I want to talk and focus on all three of those aspects: people, training and equipment.”

The military cannot concentrate on the Middle East and Central Asia to the exclusion of the rest of the world, Mullen said. The military needs to “balance or re-balance” the risks worldwide. The U.S. military has challenges and responsibilities worldwide.

“I want to look to balance these risks given the commitments we have and the challenging world that we’re living in,” he said.

The first trip the chairman took was to Iraq and Afghanistan. He said it was important to him that those were his first destinations.

“I found our troops just performing magnificently with good morale,” he said. “(They were) carrying out their missions with great pride, making a difference. Yet they are tired.”

The chairman met troops in the 14th month of a 15-month deployment.

“I can’t overstate how great they’ve been in carrying out the mission they’ve been asked to do,” he said. He said the 15-month deployments are long. Most of the soldiers will have a dwell-time at home for a year and then will go back to a combat zone. “I believe, we’ve got to move from this 15-month deployment and 12 months back to 12-month deployments and 15 months back, as soon as possible,” he said.

The chairman also traveled Fort Sill, Okla., and Fort Riley, Kan., to meet with soldiers, especially mid-level NCOs and officers.

“They are looking for a break. They want to spend time with their families. They love what they’re doing, yet they have long-term concerns as to whether this is the right career path for them,” the chairman said. “I tell them this is the most combat-hardened force that we have ever had. They are so valuable. They are the seeds for getting our Army and Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force right for the future.”

Mullen said he wants servicemembers to know that Defense Department leaders understand and acknowledge these problems and challenges exist, “and we’re doing a lot to work on them to solve them, to get it right for their future so that we get it right for the future of our armed forces.”

Families are a continued focus for Mullen and other military leaders.

“We have to take into consideration families’ needs when we move people around or we don’t move people around,” he said. “We have to give them more stability.”

The military needs to provide more stability and more predictability, “as best we can do that in what is a pretty unpredictable world,” Mullen said. “We have to take families into account as we make career decisions about where we move soldiers. So many young officers I spoke to last week in Fort Riley and Sill had moved several times. That’s tough for the families.”

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