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Joint chief chair pays visit
Adm. Mullen talked to Fort Stewart soldiers about deployments
Joint Chief Mullen
Adm. Mike Mullen
Before Wednesday, no one could remember when a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had visited Fort Stewart and its troops.
After Wednesday, thousands of Fort Stewart soldiers will remember the "all hands call" conducted by Admiral Mike Millen, the nation's top soldier. All hands call is a U.S. Navy term for a gathering where leaders talk to and with service members.
The topics ranged through every possibility any soldier might want to ask about. Examples include the high price of gas, conditions in barrack sand promotion policies. Mullen brought the good news that the "dwell time" for the Third Infantry Division will be 16-18 months. Dwell time is the military term for the time soldiers spend at home station, before another deployment.
In several cases soldiers asked questions Mullen could not answer; in each of these he was careful to get the questioner's name and email address so he could follow up with an answer.
Mullen told reporters, "By the way, I read and answer all my own email."
The admiral took special note of a question from SSGT Richard Rotondo, who asked if the heavily armored vehicles soldiers use in Iraq and Afghanistan could not be provided stateside for training. before deployments. "Good question," the admiral said, making notes.  
Recalling his own wartime experiences in Vietnam, Mullen said he thought no one went through such events without effects such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  
"These are individuals and families who have paid an incredible price to defend our country. We have asked them to go into harm's way. They have done what their country has asked, and I think every effort needs to be made to make sure that they are well taken care of," he said. "The entire nation owes these troops a debt that can never be repaid fully."
An integrated effort by the Defense Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the country as a whole needs to look out for these troops to "make sure they are OK for the rest of their lives," he said.
While ensuring the top-notch medical care they receive is sustained over time, this integrated support network must ensure transitioning troops recognize that "their American dream is still achievable," he said.
Mullen told soldiers that the unpopular stop-loss policy which can keep them in the service beyond their period of enlistment was a measure he would like to see ended, "But I just don't think we're there yet." In one of the groups of more than 500 soldiers, Mullen asked for a show of hands from those who had served in multiple deployments. Many soldiers raised their hands to show they had been through three or four deployments, and only when Mullen asked about five deployments did the hands showing drop to about a dozen.
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