The Bayonet

Tuesday, Aug. 05, 2014

Vice chief: Relationship building matters most

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WASHINGTON - Building personal relationships - whether with lawmakers, with state governors or with political and military leaders of nations engaged in the war on terror - is just as important, sometimes even more so, as the ability to project force, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John F. Campbell.

Campbell spoke during his farewell media roundtable at the Pentagon, Friday. He was confirmed by the Senate last week as the next International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan commander. He departs for Afghanistan later this month.

As the drawdown continues, the process of notifying Soldiers that they will be involuntarily separated will be done through the chain of command with dignity and respect, he said. The Army considers those leaving, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, to be "Soldiers for life."

That's why "we've got to do this right," Campbell said.

While building these Soldier-to-Soldier relationships up and down the chain of command during the drawdown is important, it's also critical to establish rapport with legislators, Campbell said, noting that he, along with the secretary and chief, have been candid with them regarding the deleterious effects continued sequestration will have on readiness and the Army's ability to carry out national security objectives.

Besides senior leader visits to Capitol Hill, the Army has been sending teams of Soldiers, including personnel from the National Guard, to meet with governors to discuss the Army's Aviation Restructuring Initiative.

The ARI is the plan to swap Guard Apache helicopters for active duty Black Hawks, a move that the Army says will save money and increase overall readiness.

"We've sent teams ... to talk to some 25 to 30 governors about ARI, above and beyond the nine states that have Apaches and asked them the question, 'Governor, what do we have to do to convince you or the people in your state that the Black Hawk or Chinook is much better for your state mission than an Apache?'" Campbell said.

While the Army wants the National Guard to remain an operational Reserve Component, the effects of the budget and drawdown "just don't allow that to happen," he added. "We're going from 13 active combat aviation brigades to 10."

As Campbell prepares to go to Afghanistan, he said he's been getting intelligence briefings and earlier this year he made a full circuit through the country, meeting with commanders on the ground to get their feedback.

That person-to-person relationship with his commanders will continue when he returns there this month for his third tour of duty there. Since the effort is international, he will also be meeting with NATO and regional leaders, he said.

The importance of personal relationships during this period of transition where the U.S. is drawing down and the Afghans are stepping up to the fight, is critical, he said, adding that the insurgents cross back and forth along the porous Afghan-Pakistan border so the discussions and efforts to root them out is important to the leaders and people of both countries.

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