Mullen Talks Change, Leadership With Troops in Mosul

MOSUL, Iraq, Aug. 1, 2011 — Navy Adm. Mike Mullen today got a taste of the ground truth that Amer­i­can ser­vice mem­bers live every day in this north­ern Iraqi city.

It was more than 125 degrees out­side when the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to about 400 ser­vice mem­bers at the Marez gym here. He thanked them for their ser­vice, and said Amer­i­ca was “blessed” to have them.

Mosul was a con­cern when he took office in 2007, the chair­man not­ed. “Mosul was in real­ly, real­ly tough shape,” he said. “The vio­lence was high, and it was al-Qai­da Cen­tral.”

The change in the city is strik­ing, Mullen said, and he thanked the ser­vice mem­bers for what they do day in and day out to give the Iraqis the chance for a demo­c­ra­t­ic and free future.

The chair­man also spoke to the 1st Cav­al­ry Division’s 4th Advise and Assist Brigade about change. “There are oppor­tu­ni­ties in change, but change can also be very chal­leng­ing,” he said.

The ser­vice mem­bers have made changes in Mosul, the chair­man added, but change also is going to be felt in the U.S. mil­i­tary writ large. “Change has become a way of life for us across the board,” he said.

Mullen told the troops that a deal had been struck in the debt-ceil­ing debate, but that the mes­sage of the debate will have far-reach­ing effects for the mil­i­tary, repeat­ing an opin­ion he fre­quent­ly has expressed.

I believe that debt is the biggest threat to our nation­al secu­ri­ty,” he said. “We can­not keep increas­ing our debt and expect the Pen­ta­gon … to get the resources we need.”

While the nation will get through these debt prob­lems, Mullen said, the mon­ey for nation­al defense is not an unlim­it­ed pot. “There will be tough deci­sions to make,” he added. “It is the first time we have been through a cycle like this when we have two wars, an all-vol­un­teer force, the num­bers of deploy­ments and the chal­lenges we have to deal with this.”

Reten­tion and recruit­ing are high, but they will be con­strained, he said. The ser­vices must keep the best peo­ple, he told the ser­vice mem­bers. He urged them to diver­si­fy their expe­ri­ence and get more edu­ca­tion, because the ser­vices need high­ly qual­i­fied, high­ly edu­cat­ed per­son­nel to weath­er this cycle.

Today’s force is the most com­bat-expe­ri­enced force in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, with many sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines serv­ing mul­ti­ple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. “One of the ques­tions is ‘How do we sus­tain this over time?” he said.

Lead­er­ship will see the mil­i­tary through a lot of these prob­lems, the chair­man said, adding that he wants lead­ers at all lev­els to step for­ward.

Any­body who is out there … [in the] front, mid­dle or back can make a dif­fer­ence,” he said. “You’ve seen that in com­bat, [and] you’ve seen it in peace.”

Part of lead­er­ship at all lev­els is tak­ing care of each oth­er, the chair­man said. All, he added, must work to elim­i­nate sex­u­al assaults in the mil­i­tary and to help ser­vice mem­bers con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide, and all have to work to elim­i­nate any stig­ma asso­ci­at­ed with seek­ing help for post-trau­mat­ic stress and trau­mat­ic brain injury.

Mullen told the non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers in the audi­ence that they had suc­ceed­ed because some­one made a dif­fer­ence in their lives. “I ask that you do the same,” he said. “Fig­ure it out. Pay it back that way.

Pre­pare them,” he con­tin­ued. “Give them oppor­tu­ni­ties for lead­er­ship, give them oppor­tu­ni­ties for respon­si­bil­i­ty, [and] give them oppor­tu­ni­ties for edu­ca­tion and train­ing.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)