Monday, February 08, 2010

Statement by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the Death of Congressman Jack Murtha

February 8, 2010 - I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jack Murtha. America has lost a true patriot who served his country faithfully first in uniform as a decorated combat Marine, and then as an elected representative.

I've known Jack and worked with him for more than two decades, starting back in the Reagan administration when I was at CIA. I will always remember and be grateful for Congressman Murtha's personal efforts on behalf of the Afghan resistance fighting the Soviets - efforts that helped bring about the end of the Cold War.

In our dealings over the years, Jack and I did not always agree, but I always respected his candor, and knew that he cared deeply about the men and women of America's military and intelligence community. My condolences to Joyce and the rest of the Murtha family.

Iran's Nuclear Program Puts Middle East in Danger, Gates Says

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 8, 2010 - Iran's continuing nuclear development program only serves to put the Middle East in danger of nuclear weapons proliferation, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today. But, Gates pushed for stronger diplomatic and economic pressure from the international community rather than calling for military conflict.

"I think that everybody's interest is in seeing this issue resolve without resorting to conflict. But it makes it all the more important," he said. "We have to face the reality that if Iran continues and develops nuclear weapons it almost certainly will provoke proliferation in the Middle East. That's a huge danger."

Gates' comments came at a press conference alongside France's Minister of Defense Hervé Morin. Gates flew here today to meet with the ministers of defense and foreign affairs as well as France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, who he will meet for the first time.

Morin backed Gates' comments on Iran, saying that France supports putting international pressure on Iran to stop its current nuclear program.

Since 2006, France has repeatedly publicly stressed the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran and has worked with the United States and other members of the P5+1 group -- China, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany -- to demand that Iran end its current nuclear program, according to the U.S. State Department.

Gates said that if all international partners would agree on a plan, then sanctions could still work.

"The key is persuading Iranian leaders that their long-term best interests are best served by not having nuclear weapons, as opposed to having them," Gates said. "My hope is that we will then be able to keep this in economic and diplomatic channels.

"The point of the pressure is to bring the Iranians back to the negotiating table and to resolve this issue in a way that prevents Iran from having a nuclear weapon," he added.

Besides Iran, Gates said he talked about France's military support in Afghanistan. The secretary called France "close partners." Gates said that during the past few years the diplomatic relationship with France has "significantly" expanded.

The renewed relationship is in part due to the realization by both of the governments that "security challenges of the 21st century are too large and too complex to be dealt with by any single nation acting alone," he said.

Gates praised France's current efforts in Afghanistan, calling the mission "vitally important to the security of the whole world."

And he said that NATO and non-NATO allies must act quickly to capitalize on momentum noted by the senior commander on the ground this year. This will happen only if the allies provide Afghanistan with mentors and trainers to bolster their force to take over the security mission.

"We must act swiftly to increase the impact of the forces now headed to the theater for this pivotal year," Gates said.

The secretary said there has been a renewed energy among NATO and non-NATO partners with respect to the mission in Afghanistan. As a result, the number of troops committed to the fight by allies has almost tripled since Gates took office.

France has increased their forces by nearly half since the start of the war and has taken on new training responsibilities, fielding six operational and mentoring teams and offering six more. France has about 2,800 troops in Afghanistan.

Among NATO members, France is second only to the United States in terms of total troops deployed abroad. France is one of NATO's top five troop contributors.

For Wisconsin Guard members, resiliency is key to returning to life after deployment

February 8, 2010 - Some of that support comes from a new Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program that equips and trains service members, families and civilian employees to maximize their potential and face the physical and psychological challenges of sustained operations. Friday's presentation focused on resiliency.

Dunbar said that resilience, by definition, is an object's ability to withstand force or trauma and rebound. "It's the difference between before we deployed to combat and after," he explained.

He dropped a baseball from shoulder height, noting how it bounced and referred to its "angle of resilience." He repeated this with a golf ball, a tennis ball and a football, each achieving different results.

"Some of us are like baseballs, and some of us are like golf balls," Dunbar observed. "Some of us are better at this than others."

With more than 3,300 Wisconsin Guard Soldiers and Airmen recently returned from a combat zone, it is essential that they are given the tools necessary to help them re-adjust to civilian life, said Dunbar. Because each individual in the National Guard is unique, there is no easy way to determine who may need help adjusting after a deployment.

So everyone is given the same access to the same tools, Dunbar said, referring to those programs as "arrows in a quiver."

Soldiers returning with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat team in January received briefings on some of these tools at "Wisconsin Day" - where the Wisconsin Service Member Support Division joined forces with the state Department of Workforce Development and the state Department of Veterans Affairs, along with several other agencies, to help returning Soldiers and Airmen understand rights and benefits they have earned as veterans - in particular; education, employment, health care, and the opportunity to file service-related Veterans Administration disability claims before leaving active duty. All returning service members receive similar briefings, which continue throughout the year during reintegration events.

Not only is the reintegration required, it is the right thing to do, Dunbar said. And it helps create a comprehensively fit service member; one who is resilient: physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually fit; is part of a family unit.

Dunbar noted that Guard members can face heightened stress levels without being on deployment, and detailed what he does to stay resilient.

"I try to remember my blessings," he said. "We live in the United States of America - it's pretty amazing, and we tend to forget."

He emphasized maintaining balance between work and family: "If all you do is work, you're missing some special time with your family," he said. Vacations can help maintain that balance, along with understanding that no one is irreplaceable.

"If I die tomorrow, I promise you the Wisconsin National Guard will still be a great organization," Dunbar said. "If you die tomorrow, I promise you your last thought will not be 'I should have worked harder.'"

The adjutant general also noted the importance of being true to oneself. "You have to be happy with who you see in the mirror," he explained. "In the end, being true to your self is being honest with God."

He also urged his audience to spend some time in silence, whether in prayer or just listening. "You'll be surprised at what you might hear," he said.