Our Army: Continuity and Change

By Schoomaker, Peter J. | Army, October 2004 | Go to article overview
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Our Army: Continuity and Change

Schoomaker, Peter J., Army

Last June, I stood at the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc. With me were eight of the surviving Rangers who fought there on D-Day, six decades ago. Their story brought home to me the currents of continuity and change that are moving our Army forward today.

In our long history of service to our nation, there have been many periods of significant change and transition. Change is not new. Also not new is the continuity in our Army that stems from our enduring values and our soldiers who live the warrior ethos. It is personified in the heroes that step forward in each generation.

Those Rangers at Pointe du Hoc, members of the "Greatest Generation/' lived the warrior ethos. They climbed those cliffs against harrowing odds to liberate a desperate continent. Now they have passed the torch to a new generation, and today's soldiers carry that torch with pride. We can never forget that our Army stands on the shoulders of those who came before us. And in the midst of today's challenges and changes, our new "Greatest Generation" has already proven it has a multitude of heroes.

Strategic Context. More than three years have passed since that horrific morning in September 2001 when murderous terrorists converted four civilian airliners into weapons of mass destruction. With the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, we not only lost thousands of innocent men, women and children, but we also lost our national sense of invulnerability.

From my office, you can see the path that Flight 77 took into the side of the Pentagon. You can see the ground where the Pentagon's September 11 memorial will be built. Some have compared that day to Pearl Harbor. I see it as the culminating point of a long gathering threat. The enemy clearly showed his hand and demonstrated his evil intent to all Americans and the world.

We are at war, and our homeland is perhaps in more danger than at any time since World War II. Our enemies seek to destroy our way of life. Our country is engaged in a war of ideas, a conflict that many think will last for a long time, perhaps decades. The U.S. Army must be ready to contribute in this new strategic environment with relevant capabilities.

Army Priorities. Our Army has two priorities: to win this global war on terrorism and to simultaneously transform our Army to meet the realities of our current and future operational environment. Transforming the force while fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and other theaters in the global war on terrorism, and while deterring other potential threats, is a significant management and leadership challenge. It is not unlike tuning an engine while the car is moving-complex and potentially dangerous.

When large organizations face demanding new circumstances, they must change to successfully meet those challenges or face irrelevance. Our circumstance today, as an Army serving our nation at war, is providing a tremendous strategic window of opportunity. The convergence of our current momentum, our focus and the increased resources provided by Congress give us an opportunity for change that we cannot afford to miss. We must set ourselves forward for the 21st century.

The Army Campaign Plan. Our Army Campaign Plan describes how we will conduct the most sweeping changes in our culture, organization and force structure since World War II. We have already moved out and are executing this plan, and we are changing in significant ways.

Army Transformation is proceeding along three main avenues. First, we are restructuring the force into modular formations with the right capabilities for our current and future security environment. second, we are rebalancing our force between the active component of our Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. This initiative gives our nation more troops available with the skills we need to fight the global war on terrorism, and for more traditional future campaigns. And third, we are stabilizing the force to provide for more cohesive and combat ready units.

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