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Donna Miles American Forces Press Service
STUTTGART, Germany, Sept. 26, 2008 –
The top U.S. military officer in Europe urged civilian leaders who spent the past week visiting military installations in the region to return home sharing their experiences, particularly with young people who might consider military service. Army Gen. John Craddock, who wears two hats as commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said the all-volunteer force introduced in 1973 has helped build the best military the country has ever seen.
“Understand that these are all volunteers,” Craddock told the group. “Everyone you talked to today is part of the all-volunteer force. [They are] incredibly talented, incredibly smart, very capable, and they do this of their own free choice.”
Many re-enlist after their initial tours, drawn by the discipline and opportunities the military offers, he told the group.
But a challenge the force faces is that, unlike during the draft, many American adults haven’t served in the military and don’t have an understanding of it to share with young people as they make choices about their future, Craddock said.
“The impact is that when young people today have to make decisions … when they turn to those they respect, it’s a difficult decision to make based upon the answers they get,” he said.
Craddock urged the civilians – all business, civic and academic leaders in their communities – to take the insights they’ve gained and share them with those who might be interested. “The hope is here, one, you can give them informed judgments and advice, and, two, you can tell others what you saw,” he said.
“We are proud of these kids,” he said. “They do it because they choose to, and they do it day in and day out.”
Craddock thanked the group for taking time from their schedules to travel through EuCom and meet the men and women who serve in the command.
“At the end of the day, you must know that our soldiers, our sailors, our Coast Guardies, our airmen and our Marines really enjoy having you here because they get a chance to show you what they do day in and day out,” he said. “And what you saw was for you, but it was not exclusively for you because it is training for them. And they are proud of that and they want you to know that.”
As part of the global force management program, EuCom provides forces for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else the Defense Department needs them, Craddock said. “The reach is deep and it is a total force effort,” he said.
“We ask much of them and what we ask of them is a high standard, fair treatment of their peers and taking care of their team. And I think it shows that we have been able to do that,” Craddock said. “At the end of the day, they are just ordinary people doing a hero’s job.”
The first U.S. defense secretary, James V. Forrestal, created the JCOC program in 1948 to introduce civilian "movers and shakers" with little or no military exposure to the workings of the armed forces. Nearly six decades later, it remains DoD's premier civic leader program.