By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, March 30, 2015 – During a troop talk at Fort Drum, New York, today, Defense Secretary Ash Carter thanked the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division and shared his vision for building what he calls “the force of the future.”
Carter said the United States has “the finest fighting force the world has ever known, and that’s you. But I must think ahead by one or two generations to make sure our country has what you represent: the best of the best in every generation.”
The secretary said he doesn’t want to lose the best people with the best skills, acknowledging that those people have other places in society where they can apply their skills. “If we want to keep you,” he said, “we need to think carefully and be innovative, because you have other choices.”
Military Must Be More Relevant
The Defense Department must be open for new ideas and keep the “wonderful traditions” it has as one of the nation’s oldest and most-respected institutions, the secretary said. But it also much change so the military is more relevant, attractive and exciting to service members and later generations, he added.
Carter outlined his thoughts on how to make the military force of the future more modern and attractive:
-- Bring in highly skilled people who can be rewarded and promoted based on performance and talent.
-- Use more 21st-century technology to enhance performance evaluations and to ensure that assignments fit life goals of service members and their families.
-- Broaden experience for service members by allowing them to gain experience outside the military so they can bring back more honed skills, or pause their service for education or family needs.
-- Blend retirement options to offer troops something similar to 401(k) plans, because “80 percent of our troops leave service before 20 years are up, which leaves them nothing,” he said. “We want to see if we can open up opportunities to get people to join and stay … and give us more of your excellent service [with] a future to build upon.”
Leadership Must Also Change
But for change to work, the secretary said, DoD’s military leadership must think more broadly and differently by preserving the best of the old -- honor, tradition, discipline and commitment to country -- and also commit to the concept of change in career. “People want choices, … and we need to compete if we’re going to succeed,” he said.
The secretary emphasized how much he appreciates what the service members do, and noted that in 14 years of two wars, only two months existed in which an element of the 10th Mountain Division did not deploy.
“That’s amazing history,” he said. “I deeply admire what you are doing for our country. It’s very much a privilege for me to be associated with you and this great mission and great institution. Please thank your families for their support of you.”
Advising, Assisting Iraqi Forces
Some service members have just returned from Afghanistan, and some are readying to deploy there, he acknowledged.
“And some of you –- and this is important -- will go to Iraq to train, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces so they can be the force that sustains the defeat of [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], after it is defeated, which it will be,” Carter said.
“To sustain that defeat, we need a force on the ground, and that’s what you’ll help create,” he said.
The world is changing rapidly, Carter told thee soldiers. “The threats to our world and our people change, [and] the face of terrorism is one of those challenges that changes all the time,” he said. “We can’t meet them in garrison. We have to be out there.”
That is why, Carter said, the military needs soldiers like those of the 10th Mountain Division engaged around the world. He added that he knows it’s not easy and the military and that he is asking a lot of them.
“For those deploying soon, I hope you know now I’m behind you 100 percent each and every day,” the secretary said. “You’re what I think about from the minute I wake up, [and] I’ll try to make sure everyone in Washington remembers that.”