From 'Nam to Now: Former FORSCOM Commander Reflects on Army's Transformation

Article excerpt

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AFTER 40 years, the Army's longest continuously serving active-duty general to have seen action in Vietnam, recently began the next chapter of his life.

Gen. Charles C. Campbell, the 17th commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, retired June 3, at Fort McPherson, Ga.

He was dubbed "Hondo" early in his career--a moniker that, as Army folklore has it, is based on the title character of the classic Louis L'Amour western novel (a role John Wayne played in the silver screen version). Whatever the source of the nickname, Campbell wore it as a badge of honor as he witnessed decades of change in the Army.

Campbell's Army story began with Special Forces training, followed by assignment to the Forces Armee' National Khmere Training Command, Army Advisory Group, Phouc Tuy Training Battalion, Vietnam, where he taught tactics. While in Vietnam, he also served as an A-Detachment executive officer and commander, his official biography states.

When he returned from Vietnam, he came home to a nation divided by the war, Campbell said.

"I encountered a nation that was very much conflicted--a nation and a people that were very much conflicted by their view of the war, and by their view of the Soldiers who fought that war," he explained. "I could tell you that we learned a lesson.

"As a nation, as a people, we've learned that we can separate the policy from the Soldier who's tasked to implement the policy. So, in this era, our Soldiers and their Families have enjoyed universal support from a respectful and grateful nation," he said.

The American opinion of Soldiers isn't that only thing that's changed since Vietnam: the Army itself has changed. When Campbell entered service in 1970, the Army was a conscripted force, with about 500,000 Soldiers deployed in the war. Three major changes occurred since then, Campbell explained.

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In July 1973, the Army became an all-volunteer force and reinvented itself, embracing "a doctrine of maneuver," Campbell said. In 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the force had to reinvent itself again to become expeditionary. Finally, on Sept. 11, 2001, the Army had to become campaign capable--"capable of prosecuting protracted campaigns," he said.

Campbell feels the Army rose to every occasion and successfully reinvented itself when needed. After 9/11, three major paradigm shifts occurred as well: the force structure was changed from a division-centric Army to a brigade-centric Army, the Army Force Generation model was adopted and the Guard and Reserve were increasingly operationalized, Campbell explained.

The ARFORGEN process progressively readies and then cyclically deploys units, he said, and is managed by the mobilization agent for the Army: FORSCOM.

Campbell considers ARFORGEN sustainable, and said it will remain the Army's strategic process for force generation through the drawdown in Iraq and in the future. …