Supporting Service to Our Nation

By General Gordon R. Sullivan, U.S. Army (Retired)
President, Association of the United States Army
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Norwich University

In his remarks at Fort Bragg on June 28, President Bush asked, "Is the sacrifice worth it?" He answered as our leader, "It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country." And he noted that we will remain until the job is done.

Now is the time for all Americans to accept the need for troops to pursue his strategy. Without more trained and courageous Soldiers and Marines, it will be very difficult to sustain the fight at the manpower levels we see today in Afghanistan and Iraq. Building indigenous security forces will require dedicated American troops in significant numbers, and the continuing security missions during the rebuilding of two war-damaged economies will absorb the efforts of many more. Additional troops are needed in the training base and strategic reserve, not only to provide direct support to forces already engaged, but to prepare for future challenges and to offer some "shore duty" to individuals between deployments with expeditionary forces.

The need for leaders to encourage national support for our forces during long wars is nothing new. It always takes time to transform economic and social potential into the military capabilities needed to bring victory. In our current situation, we have been continuing that process within our own society while helping similar processes mature in war-torn societies that we are liberating. Doubt and fatigue often crop up during the long period when victory seems distant. Leaders at every level need to help their constituents overcome those tendencies, and this leadership effort must continue to be above partisan politics.

We are fortunate that bipartisan support for our strategic initiatives in Iraq and Afghanistan is so strong. Congress has been strong in its support of the Administration's budget requests and supplementals. Congress and the nation seem to see the wisdom of continuing our military and diplomatic efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But we are approaching a paradoxical situation where virtually everyone pledges support for those who are serving in the Armed Forces but far fewer see the need to continue to recruit to fill the ranks. Unlike many earlier wars, we have not signed people up "for the duration," so it's no surprise that many young people serve their agreed term of service and then return to civilian life. Those people must be replaced. Everyone who supports the notion that the future security of our country depends upon meeting the threats our Armed Forces are facing today must do what they can to help fill the needs of those who serve.