USA — Gates Cites Leaders’ Responsibilities at Army Birthday Event

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates helped to cel­e­brate the Army’s 235th birth­day today at a Pen­ta­gon court­yard cer­e­mo­ny and impart­ed a mes­sage for its lead­er­ship to always make time to lis­ten to what their troops have to say.

Army's 235th birthday
The old­est sol­dier in the Mil­i­tary Dis­trict of Wash­ing­ton, Col. Arthur Wit­tich, left, 72; Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr.; Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates; Army Sec­re­tary John M. McHugh and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ken­neth O. Pre­ston, cut a cake in com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Army’s 235th birth­day dur­ing a cer­e­mo­ny at the Pen­ta­gon, June 14, 2010.
U.S. Army pho­to by Staff Sgt
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“There are many down­sides to [Defense Sec­re­tary], but one of the things I tru­ly look for­ward to is any chance I have to meet sol­diers and their fam­i­lies,” Gates said. “Every stop I make any­where will include troop talks or town halls, so that I can hear hon­est­ly how things are going.

“There is always time on my sched­ule to lis­ten to what these amaz­ing Amer­i­cans have to say, even if some­times it’s tough to hear,” he con­tin­ued. “My direct engage­ment with sol­diers on the bat­tle­field, their fam­i­lies at home and civil­ians employed around the world has helped shape my views and the pri­or­i­ties of ser­vice and the depart­ment.”

The Army birth­day cel­e­bra­tion also includ­ed Army Sec­re­tary John M. McHugh, Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey Jr., Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ken­neth O. Pre­ston and oth­er senior lead­ers.

Gates under­scored his com­ments, cit­ing that recent inno­va­tions such as increased edu­ca­tion ben­e­fits and bet­ter com­bat uni­forms and gear, have devel­oped from sol­diers’ input to lead­ers.

Lead­ers must nev­er for­get they have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to lis­ten, he said.

“This institution’s lega­cy of patri­o­tism and the spir­it of the men and women who’ve served in it demand no less,” the sec­re­tary said.

More than 200,000 sol­diers today are deployed around the world, the major­i­ty of which are serv­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many more have seen com­bat in those the­aters as well as oth­ers.

Gates expressed his admi­ra­tion for those sol­diers and their abil­i­ty to adapt to the nature of those con­flicts. Today’s sol­diers have the skills and intel­lect nec­es­sary to adjust to the demands of an ever-chang­ing set of capa­bil­i­ties and com­pe­ten­cies required by today’s mul­ti-faceted Army mis­sions, he said.

“I’m awed by their abil­i­ty to adapt and suc­ceed in a mis­sion that at var­i­ous stages has called upon them to be schol­ars, teacher, police­man, farm­ers, bankers, engi­neers, social work­ers and, of course, war­riors, often all at the same time,” he said. “Above all, I am per­pet­u­al­ly thank­ful for their will­ing­ness to serve and have the great­est faith in their abil­i­ty to face the dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous mis­sions that lie ahead.”

The U.S. mil­i­tary lib­er­at­ed more than 50 mil­lion peo­ple from tyran­ny and total­i­tar­i­an regimes dur­ing the past decade alone. The indi­vid­ual sol­diers and ser­vice­mem­bers deserve much cred­it for their desire to relieve so many from oppres­sion, Casey said dur­ing the Pen­ta­gon cer­e­mo­ny.

The Army’s senior uni­formed offi­cer cit­ed an Army birth­day mes­sage from Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, which decreed that sol­diers “rep­re­sent the best of Amer­i­ca.”

“I would tell you that we are that way because of our core val­ues, because of our ethos and because of our peo­ple,” Casey said. “At its core, our his­to­ry is the his­to­ry of our peo­ple; ordi­nary Amer­i­cans, ordi­nary men and women who have done extra­or­di­nary things over time for this great coun­try.”

More than 30 mil­lion men and women have served in the Army since its estab­lish­ment by the Con­ti­nen­tal Con­gress on June 14, 1775.

Today’s Pen­ta­gon cer­e­mo­ny con­clud­ed with a tra­di­tion­al cake cut­ting by the old­est and youngest sol­diers serv­ing in the Mil­i­tary Dis­trict of Wash­ing­ton. Also, some 20 Army Nation­al Guards­men and active duty sol­diers reen­list­ed. The event also fea­tured sta­t­ic dis­plays of past and present Army uni­forms, weapons and tech­nol­o­gy dis­played through­out the Pen­ta­gon court­yard.

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