The Strategic Value of United States Army Europe

Oct. 9, 2011

Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, U.S. Army Europe Commanding General

AUSA Chapter Presidents Dinner
Renaissance Grand Ballroom
Washington, D.C.

General (Ret) and Mrs. Sullivan, region and chapter presidents, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen;

Thank you for inviting Sue and me.

It was a year ago that we listened to my TRADOC boss speak to you. 

He had a terrific message.

He told this audience about the demands on our Army to recapture the essence of professionalism, and how TRADOC would lead the way on that important mission.

He asked for your help, since you all make such a tremendous difference in educating our nation about what our Army is, what our Army does.

Truly motivational, and inspirational.

So it’s an honor for us to be invited this year, especially since I was told this is the first time you’ve had a three-star guest speaker for the chapter presidents dinner.

I’m hoping that rank decrement will allow GEN Sullivan – if asked -- to testify to the Senate that the Army isn’t using a four-star in a place where a three-star will do just fine.

Whatever caused AUSA to invite us tonight, we’re excited to be here.

Like GEN Dempsey, I know how critical AUSA and chapter presidents are for supporting our Soldiers, Civilians and Families at various installations…you are also so very critical in telling the Army story.

You are all Patriots and the voice of America’s Army for more than 60 years.

And we will need you now, more than ever before.

Especially in these tough economic times, when everyone is talking about budget deficits.

During his testimony before confirmation, our new chairman had the guts to disagree with Admiral Mullen’s oft-repeated assertion that the debt crisis is the single biggest threat to our national security.

GEN Dempsey reminded the hill that American global power is derived from three areas: our economic, military and diplomatic strength.

He cautioned that as a world power we couldn’t chose between those three.

Being in Europe, working with forces from 51 different countries, I agree completely.

And I would hope that in an increasingly globalized world, we would not choose a strategy of increased isolationism as a result of our economic situation.

So with that as an intro, would you allow me to talk a bit about what your Army is doing in Europe?

Many of you served in Germany with the Imperial Army of the Rhine.

In 1989, when the Berlin wall came down, our Army in Europe had a quarter million Soldiers, and almost a million family members working in 850 installations.

Today, we are a force of about 41,000 Soldiers, living in 7 major communities.

We remain our nations’ force of decisive action, ready today, and prepared for tomorrow!

Our priority remains preparing our forces to prevail in the current fight.

By the way, those two words – prepare and prevail – are two of the four “P’s” of our national defense strategy.

But our forces are different today now compared to what it was ten years ago.

During that period, we’ve found ways to prepare and prevail not alone, but with our allies….and that’s significant to our nation.

Early in the current fight, our allies were not contributing much… what they were contributing in terms of forces were not contributing in terms of action.

But that’s different today.

Europeans currently make up more than 85% of the international force in Afghanistan, providing 4.5 brigade equivalents and OMLT/POMLTS at any given time.

That’s 40,000+ American Soldiers that we don’t have to train and deploy … because Poland, Georgia, Italy, France, Germany and about 32 others are training – usually with us – to be active parts of the ISAF coalition.

Within USAREUR, while we prepare our own forces – and we usually have about 20-30% of our force deployed at any time -- we initiated training venues and exercises focused on how to train with our allies.

Many of these events occur at our joint multinational training command, or JMTC, at Grafenwoehr and Hohenels.

A place very different today than during the cold war.

At JMTC, we’ve incorporated the latest doctrinal changes as they apply to coin operations; tactics, techniques, and procedures; counter-IED lessons; and intelligence techniques.

Not just with our Army – but with European partners.

Since 2005, we’ve included multinational soldiers in every mission rehearsal exercise we conduct
In April of this year, at the 172d Infantry Brigade’s Mission Rehearsal Exercise in preparation for an Afghan mission, we had more than 750 Soldiers from Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Bosnia, Slovenia, France, and the Afghanistan national army integrated into the training event to prepare for combat.

These were the same partners the 172d would fight with on the battlefield – building trust before deployment. 


But many of my mentors – like GEN Sullivan, GEN Fred Franks – taught me that generals master transitions.

While we’ve brought alliances together, and improved our relations on the battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan with our European partners, in my view we’re fast approaching a transition point – a critical inflection point -- in our strategic priorities and in the way our Army should be doing business.

While preparing for and prevailing has been our Army’s focus, we will soon shift to a post-ISAF environment, where we will place greater emphasis on preventing future conflicts.

As ISAF draws down, as some of our forces decrease in size, as we face budget constraints, we must find new ways to continue to build partner capacity and partnerships through theater security cooperation – exercises, training events, regional vice bilateral partnerships, professional development of officers and noncommissioned officers.

Those actions will help us meet our strategic challenges and prepare alliances before wars begin.

Last month during the 19th Annual Conference of European Armies, 38 Army Chiefs of Staff or equivalents met in Italy to discuss post-ISAF training in Europe.

The CEA is one of the most important U.S. Army conferences we hold as it brings senior military leaders together to establish enduring relationships.

The discussed how to maintain the alliances and partnerships we’ve built in Europe over the last ten years, and we developed a plan of action, focused on preventing conflict in the future.

Old Europe, new Europe, and in between Europe all agreed on that.

The following are a few of the key initiatives we discussed and examples of what we’re doing:

Expanding our relationships, with us helping to train the trainers, not just us conducting the training.  They all asked for that.

We’ve been successful at that, with more than 900 sergeants from partners’ nations graduating from our NCO Academy in the last several years.  These non-commissioned officers return to their nations and developed NCOs in partner armies. 

We’re also agreed on integrating allied trainers into our observer / controller teams. Right now, we have poles, Romanians, Croatians, germens and Italians as part of our o/c teams at Hohnfels. If the training revolution that guys like Sullivan and Starry and Vuono started in our Army is any indication, this will also start a needed revolution in many of our partner countries.

We’ve decided we must continue to train and exercise together, but in different types of scenarios, because all of our nations are seeing personnel and resource constraints.

For example, we recently completed the 17th year of Combined Endeavor, a multinational communication and computer network exercise.  This year 39 countries participated as the exercise focused on the emerging cyber threat.

We’ve developed a new coalition forces land component command (CFLCC) course for senior officers – allied colonels and brigadiers -- that will focus on leadership and training our nations’ future leaders as component commanders in coalition environments.

We’re conducting multi-national exercises in Ukraine (with 13 other countries), in the Baltics (with seven countries), and in the black sea region with new partners Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia.

Today we operate in an environment where we have a greater emphasis on the contributions of allies, and the increasing role of regional partners, sometime in ad hoc alliances.

We’ve seen that in Libya, and we may see it again.


Now, I’ve talked about three of the P’s: prevail, prevent and prepare. 

But now I’d like to bring in a guest speaker, who can inform you about “preserve.”

Because during the last 10 years of war, families in Europe have remained strong while living in a forward deployed location. 

They have managed to keep those home-front fires burning, even when an ocean separates them from the support of extended family and friends – even when they are far from the comforts and familiarity of life in America.


Keeping the home-front fires burning - that’s what our families in Europe continue to do no matter where their home may be. 

The Herting’s home was in Grafewoehr when someone in this room, who is near and dear to our hearts, came to Germany in 2005 to be our guest speaker at the JMTC ball.

At the time, the Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division from Germany were serving in Iraq during a very challenging period.

The weight of that deployment was being felt in deep and powerful ways.  Mark and I were also experiencing the weight of deployment on a very personal level as our oldest son had just returned to Iraq for the second time in his young life.

But we all took comfort when our guest speaker, General Gordon Sullivan, addressed the family members who were present. 

He didn’t just say “Thanks for what you do” or “We couldn’t do this without you.”

He found another way to deliver a message that resonated with every person in the room.  He told us that “Were it not for the strength and sacrifice of our Army families on the home front, the initiatives in Iraq and Afghanistan would have collapsed like a house of cards.”  He said “We can’t lose this.”

If that’s at least a part of what the national security strategy means by “preserve,” then no one is more deserving of our support than our forward-deployed Army families. 

I’d like to share two stories of Army spouses in Europe that are indicative of the kind of spirit we need to preserve.

Lisa, now living with her boys in Baumholder, is the wife of an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel named Sean.  We met last month and while I knew she had faced some significant challenges in the weeks prior, I had no idea what a powerhouse of resilience this woman was.

You see, on August 9th, her husband called from work to say he’d been activated from the command list.  He was going to take charge of a battalion stationed in Baumholder, but immediately deployed to Afghanistan. 

All of this was happening because the previous battalion commander had been wounded and could not return to the battle field.
Sean was assigned to the Naval War College when he received word to report to Germany as quickly as possible.  He was to immediately deploy to Afghanistan.

When he received that order, Sean, Lisa, and their three sons were enjoying a year in Newport, Rhode Island, loving life, and relishing being together as family after having endured previous deployments.

But we all know – none more so than Army families – that life is what happens when you’re making other plans - and this family’s life plan had just changed overnight.  They now had a new, revised “to do” list with a suspense of one month:

Two twin boys, who had just left for summer camp, would have to be told the promise of two years without a move could not be kept.

Their youngest son, registered in the exceptional family member program, would have to be evaluated again to be cleared for the move to Baumholder. Not an easy task when a family is caught between the Army and Navy medical systems.

And somehow, they’d have to find a way for that same son to make his first communion now - before dad deployed - instead of next year.

There was a van to sell, a car to ship overseas, HHG to move to Germany, HHG to be placed in storage.

There were three birthdays to celebrate and they also had to find a home for their most endearing family member, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever, because Case could not endure another transatlantic flight. 

So Sean and Lisa began to attack that “to do” list and as they pushed forward, the challenges they faced were relentless:

Lisa’s parents, who had traveled to Rhode Island for Matthew’s first communion, were forced to fly back to Chicago early because of the threat of Hurricane Irene.  And Irene was scheduled to hit the Newport area on moving day.

Well, Irene did hit the area on moving day and it was nothing short of a miracle that the moving crew showed up as planned. The HHG were packed in a house that had no running water and no electricity.

Sean’s parents -- who had come in a few days prior to help -- were forced to seek refuge in a Red Cross shelter where they could get food and a shower.

Through all of this, there were moments of anger, denial, anxiety and tears.  But here’s what Lisa had to say just five weeks after their world had been turned upside down:

“In the end, it all worked out.  It was crazy getting out of Rhode Island, and many people thought I was crazy for moving the boys since Sean was leaving as soon as we got there.  But when the Army says move, we always do it as a family.  There are too many times we have to be apart, so if we can be together we are.  I’m thankful for the two weeks we had in Baumholder together before Sean left, since Sean has a peace of mind that we’re all okay and in a tight community.  I love my Army life, and would not change it for anything. I’m proud of my husband, who is an amazing Soldier, and the strength of my boys amazes me.  Jacob and Josh started 7th grade in their 5th new school, and Matthew is in 3d grade in his 3rd new school.  They are happy, strong, resilient kids and for that I’m thankful.”

We have to preserve that.

The second story is about Nicole Harmon, a gold star wife whose husband was the first casualty of the 172d Infantry Brigade in Afghanistan a few weeks ago.

This is a woman who demonstrated incredible strength when she spoke at her husband’s memorial service in front of almost 1000 Soldiers and family members at Graf.

On that day, Nicole paid tribute to her Soldier while wearing a bizarre pair of multi-colored high heels that she called her zombie shoes.  She wore them because they had always made her husband laugh.  She arrived at the service with a huge bouquet of flowers for her battle buddies in the family readiness group because she knew how sad they were feeling.

When Nicole spoke, she expressed how happy she would be when all the Brigade Soldiers were reunited with their families.  She said she’d be reunited with her husband, too, but that she knew she’d have to wait just a little longer.

One week later, Nicole put on her zombie shoes, once again, to wear to her husband’s funeral - this time with an Infantry blue dress.

She’ll be returning to her home town in America soon, but before she moves, she’s going to travel alone to a country her husband had always wanted to visit. And she hopes to return to Germany for the welcome home ceremony when the Blackhawk Soldiers are reunited with their families next year.

We have to preserve that, too.


(Show picture of rucked Soldier)

The USAREUR Soldier you see pictured is the real reason all of us are here this evening.  SGT Blake Edmonds.
This is a USAREUR Soldier, at the very beginning of this war.  Weighted down, perhaps thinking about how he will fight, who he will fight next to, and who’s taking care of his family at home.

We prepared him as best we could for this fight, and we’ve prevailed over the last ten years of conflict.

It represents all of us…concerned about what’s going to happen next.

(Picture of six Airborne Soldiers from Rapid Trident)

These are a bunch of allied soldiers at one of our recent exercises, in Ukraine.

We’re at an inflection point…and to prevent wars in the future we must build alliances, continue to train, and ensure that our strategy is not only about executing budget reductions.

(Picture of Soldiers’ ride)

This is a picture of a recent Wounded Warrior ride…with family members, wounded Soldiers, Soldiers helping Soldiers, and coalition partners in Germany, who are at Lanstuhl hospital.

In this picture are not only us soldiers, marines and airmen, but Georgian amputees, blind Romanians, Germans with PTSD.

We have to ensure we preserve this family connection, just like we have to preserve our families…


Thank you again for all you do for our Soldiers, their Families, the Civilian workforce and our Veterans as we meet the needs of our nation, maintain the U.S. leadership in the world, and sustain our volunteer force…the force of decisive action.

And thank you for allowing us to speak with you tonight.