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Army remains strong; stretched
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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army remains ready to engage and defeat America's enemies despite experiencing strain after seven years of wartime deployments, the Army's top civilian and military leaders told a Senate panel.
"Our Army is stretched by demands of this long war, but it remains an extraordinary Army," Army Secretary Pete Geren recently told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It is the best-led, best-equipped and best-trained Army we've ever put in the field.
"Today, we are an Army long at war," Geren continued, noting U.S. soldiers have fought in Afghanistan for seven years and in Iraq for about five years.
The war against global terrorism is the third-longest war in American history, Geren said, behind the Revolutionary and the Vietnam wars. It also is the longest U.S. war being fought by all-volunteer forces, he added.
The Army currently has 250,000 soldiers deployed to 80 countries, Geren said, including those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan "are our top priority, and we will never take our eye off of that ball," Geren emphasized.
The nearly $141 billion allocated for the Army under the fiscal 2009 defense budget and supplemental funding "ensure that our soldiers have what they need, when they need it," Geren said.
The budget contains money for the Army to put its 64,000-soldier expansion on the front burner, Geren noted. "We have accelerated the 64,000-man growth in the active-duty Army from 2012 to 2010, with a commitment that we will maintain recruit quality at no lower than the 2006 levels," he reported.
These added soldiers will assist in meeting wartime requirements during a period of persistent conflict that is challenging the Army's soldiers and their families, Geren said.
Despite the challenges, the all-volunteer Army continues to meet its recruiting and retention goals, Geren said. "They're volunteer soldiers; they're volunteer families," he said. "They're proud of who they are, and they're proud of what they do. We all are inspired by their service and humbled by their sacrifice."
The National Guard and Army Reserve also have made heavy contributions to the war effort, Geren said, noting that 184,000 reservists and 270,000 National Guard members have been activated for service in the war against global terrorism since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The current Army budget proposal addresses the transformation of the Reserve components into an operational reserve. The new Army budget, which contains $5.6 billion for new Guard equipment and $1.4 billion for reserve equipment, continues a pattern of steady investment for the reserve components, Geren said.
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