"Not Your Grandfather's Army"
For veterans from the Greatest Generation, the stories of soldier heroism and tragedy from Iraq must have a familiar ring.
But for all the changes in the intervening 60 years, by far the greatest has been the emergence of the all-volunteer force.
Today there is no draft, and that means there are no draftees.
One of the Army's greatest post-World War II chiefs of staff, Gen. Creighton Abrams, himself a distinguished World War II tank battalion commander, used to say, "People aren't in the Army - people are the Army."
The end of the draft meant an entirely different way of attracting, employing, and retaining soldiers that has had a profound strategic impact.
The all-volunteer force means that the military must use private sector recruiting strategies to compete for recruits.
Today's Army has to win willing recruits - 80,000 each year. They join for a variety of reasons: patriotism, adventure, personal advancement, family tradition, educational opportunities and medical and other family benefits.
Every one of them is sought after. No one arrives after the traditional scolding from the judge: "Boy, for you it's the Army or jail."
We in the Army are competing for the best each generation has to offer: high school graduates, athletes, achievers, motivated and with high character.
Today's Army is, by and large, composed of people who want to be in the service. And we do our best to make them "professional."
They don't do "kp," and we keep the marching and harassment down to the minimum.
Instead, we want them to learn marksmanship, first aid, patrolling, maintenance of their vehicles and how to operate in a team.
Sergeants have to go to additional schooling to get promoted.
AWOLs are rare, and so are punishments.
In fact, almost any significant infraction of regulations is a cause for dismissal. Today's Army represents the best this country has to offer. They shoot straight, move quickly, and take care of each other. They're very careful to minimize casualties.
These units today often operate on duty and off like families!
In fact, the majority of the Army is married. They don't live in barracks, but in homes. They don't stand reveille, but they do come in for PT in the morning.
One of the greatest concerns is the quality of schools for their children! To retain them, we not only have to recognize their merit, we also have to take care of their families - with housing, medical care, schools, commissaries and retirement.
They believe in what they're doing, they want us to believe in them and they want the country to use them wisely and sparingly.
We now have generations of men and women who became professionals in the military and when they left, they took those skills and education back into their communities.
On the battlefield we have the best Army in the world - period.
They are motivated, disciplined, skilled, and tough-minded. Sure, we need the most modern weapons, and the best armor, most reliable radios, longest ranged artillery, and most advanced radars.
But it isn't about the equipment, the tactics or the operations.
It's the people.