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Transcript: Admiral Mullen 'All Hands' call at 380th Air Expeditionary Wing

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, prepares to reenlist Senior Airman James Pabon, 380th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron, and 19 other service members prior to an "All Hands" call with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia on Feb. 18, 2010. Admiral Mullen was on a week-long tour of the Southwest Asia region visiting with key partners and allies. (Department of Defense Photo/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, prepares to reenlist Senior Airman James Pabon, 380th Expeditionary Contracting Squadron, and 19 other service members prior to an "All Hands" call with the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia on Feb. 18, 2010. Admiral Mullen was on a week-long tour of the Southwest Asia region visiting with key partners and allies. (Department of Defense Photo/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Below is a transcript of the "All Hands" call with the 380th Expeditionary Wing at a non-disclosed base here Feb. 18 as delivered by Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  

ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN: Okay. Good morning. (Applause.)

I'd say, I didn't hear much hoo-ah when he asked for hoo-ah. Is there a hoo-ah out there?

(Chorus of, "Hoo-ah!")

ADM. MULLEN: Okay. We're going to now reenlist - I think it's 20 - pretty special individuals here shortly. And then make a few comments and mostly what I want to do is hear from you. And I hope you haven't been waiting out here too long to do that and we'll try to wrap it up here right around noon. And at the end of that, I've got coins for those that are willing to spend a few minutes and come by.

So first of all, I'd just like to comment about those who are about to re-up. Pretty special individuals, pretty special time. And everybody here, quite frankly, who has made a decision to serve in our military at this critical time in history - each and every one of you are indeed very special individuals. These kinds of ceremonies are something that don't take that long. The oath is pretty short but the words are pretty special. I'm not sure there's a more important one in our country. And so I'm grateful to you, grateful to your families. And I guess I didn't ask, is anybody getting bonus money here? Any of you? (Laughter, applause.)

ADM. MULLEN: (Chuckles.) How much?

MR. : $67,000, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: $67,000. (Applause.)

ADM. MULLEN: And I also - I'll make an assumption it's tax-free. Yeah, okay. Anyway. So very special event, very special group and a very special reenlistment ceremony in terms of what it says about us, where it actually takes place. And it isn't - quite frankly - it isn't about the money. It's about service. It's about sacrifice at a time that really makes a difference.

So are you all ready? Are you supposed to move or stand there? Huh? Stand here. Okay. All right, well, if - and I'd ask you again to all rise. And if you'd come to attention and raise your right hand and repeat after me:

I - state your name -

REENLISTEES: I - [name] -

ADM. MULLEN: - do solemnly swear -

REENLISTEES: - do solemnly swear -

ADM. MULLEN: - to support and defend the constitution of the United States -

REENLISTEES: - to support and defend the constitution of the United States -

ADM. MULLEN: - against all enemies -

REENLISTEES: - against all enemies -

ADM. MULLEN: - foreign and domestic -

REENLISTEES: - foreign and domestic -

ADM. MULLEN: - and bear true faith and allegiance to the same -

REENLISTEES: - and bear true faith and allegiance to the same -

ADM. MULLEN: - and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States -

REENLISTEES: - and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States -

ADM. MULLEN: - and the officers appointed over me -

REENLISTEES: - and the officers appointed over me -

ADM. MULLEN: - in accordance with regulations -

REENLISTEES: - in accordance with regulations -

ADM. MULLEN: - and the Uniform Code of Military Justice -

REENLISTEES: - and the Uniform Code of Military Justice -

ADM. MULLEN: - so help me God.

REENLISTEES: - so help me God.

ADM. MULLEN: Congratulations. (Applause.)

ADM. MULLEN: Who's taking the picture?

MR. : I'll take it.

ADM. MULLEN: Okay. All right. Why don't you just come here; we'll take a photo shot. I'll give you one of these rare coins. Congratulations. Okay. All right. Congratulations. All right. Congratulations. Spc. Marander (sp), how are you?

SPC. MARANDER: I'm doing good, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: Congratulations.

MR. : Thank you, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: How are you, Everett (sp)? Congratulations. Sgt. Scott. Congratulations. Madeiros?

MR. MADEIROS: Yes, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: How are you?

MR. MADEIROS: Good, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: Where you from?

MR. MADEIROS: Massachusetts, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: Okay, Red Sox?

MR. MADEIROS: Yankees, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: No kidding? (Laughter.)

MR. MADEIROS: Yes, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: I want a picture of this. (Laughter.)

MR. MADEIROS: Thank you, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: (Inaudible.) Save summer that way, eh?

MR. : Yes.

ADM. MULLEN: Okay. (Laughter.)

MR. : (Off mike.)

ADM. MULLEN: Congratulations.

MR. : Thank you.

ADM. MULLEN: Where you from?

MR. : Oklahoma City.

ADM. MULLEN: Okay. Congratulations. Where you from?

MR. : Washington state.

ADM. MULLEN: Okay. Congratulations.

MR. : Thank you, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: All right. (Inaudible.)

MR. : Yes, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: Nice to see you. Where you from?

MR. : Arizona, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: Good to see you. Congratulations. Thanks for what you're doing. How are you this afternoon?

MR. : I'm doing well, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: Good. Congratulations. Thanks again. Congratulations. How are you, Bartlett (sp)? Congratulations. Smile? (Laughter.) Send one to your mom. (Laughter.) Private Gallick (sp). Congratulations. (Inaudible.) Congratulations.

MR. : (Off mike.)

ADM. MULLEN: Congratulations. (Inaudible.) How are you? Congratulations. There you go. How are you? Okay, please sit down. (Applause.)

Actually what I'd like to do is just again talk about just a couple of things and then open up for questions. First of all, I just want to extend my thanks and appreciation and, you know, boundless gratitude for your service. I've been doing this - (laughter) - since I was very young and it's a long time.

And I've seen our military go through ups and downs over time and we've just never been in better shape. And we're in great shape for a lot of reasons but the reason that is the most important and the reason that makes the most difference is you. It's you and those who serve around the world right now and what I consider to be the most challenging times of my lifetime. And we could not do it without you. We could not do it without your families.

And you really do make a difference. And if I'd said in 2000 or 2001 this is what I'm going to do for the next 10 years, these are the kinds of deployments. This is the rotation rate. This is the frequency. I would have said that would have been a monstrous challenge and I would have been - (inaudible) - and I would have been wrong in terms of our ability to execute it so well for us.

It doesn't mean it hasn't been tough and it doesn't mean it hasn't been a challenge and for our families at these extraordinary times. So I - from as far and deep within as I can reach, I just want to say thanks to you and thanks to your families. You couldn't be here, you couldn't deploy, you couldn't rest easy if things weren't going well at home and if we didn't have the kind of support that our families have given us in - always in my career, but certainly since these wars started.

So I often travel with my wife who spends a lot of time with spouses and knows how difficult these times are on them and their family and your families. So we really want to just express that appreciation for the difference that you've made and will continue to make. People ask me about the future of the military and where we're going and what's next. That always brings on a couple of thoughts.

One is, I don't know for sure. We have some ideas we've worked at pretty hard, but history proves that predicting what's going to happen and when how long it's going to last - there's a virtual certainty that we'll get it wrong. We don't predict very well.

But one thing I am equally - I am as uncertain as that is in terms of predictability, I am certain that we can - we move forward into the future in better shape than we've ever been and whatever the challenges are there that are to be met, they will be met because of you, because of our people and our families and that we will continue to make a difference. So I'm extremely grateful for that.

Secondly, and I just think about it as I look around this audience and I look around the missions I just came over. I just came from the Air Warfare Center. I oftentimes think of change and the pace of change. And if you've ever done any reading about change and leading in a time of change, it's the most difficult kind of leadership. Historically, that's been the case. I think it's getting less so because change is such a constant.

And I look at the kind of missions that we're carrying out, the kind of allied and coalitions - coalition forces that we have, what's happened to us in the last four or 5 years in terms of the military we've become and among other things, the most capable counterinsurgency force ever and a force that reaches out to bring in other countries, bring in coalition partners which are vital to our future as well.

But when I think about change, I'm not just talking about those condition differences because I think in the next 10, 15, 20 years, we'll be fundamentally different in how we recruit and who we recruit, fundamentally different in how we train, fundamentally different in terms of educational requirements and in fact, fundamentally different in how promote career paths.

And I don't know exactly what that will include, but I think a big part of it's going to be language, culture, deployments, being well in touch with different cultures around the world, understanding more. I've been out here a week. This is my fifth country in about five days. And the reason I really come out here - there's a couple of reasons.

But one is to listen to those in other countries, to listen to what's on their mind. And I've just found, throughout my life, that as I carry out various missions trying to understand the views from another country or another person is absolutely vital. And I find out I learn every time, each time I take these kinds of trips and I listen to leaders and I listen to civilians and I listen to militaries from other countries and I also try to listen to you and what's on your mind.

And all of us in leadership positions need to do that, but listening, learning from that and then leading to the future is - those are bywords for me that I try to pay a lot of attention to in my life. So there's an awful lot of change going on. Everywhere I go, there's change. I was just up in Saudi Arabia and you look at the missions that we're carrying out there now versus what we were doing just a few years ago. Same thing here.

The elections in Iraq, which will take place in the very near future, 7th of March and the change that that will bring to that country. It will bring to us and our mission where we start to transition out, less than 100,000 troops there right now for the first time since 2003. And another 50,000 of those are going to come out by the end of August.

And then we will transition to all troops under the current agreement - all troops out of Iraq by the end of '11. That'll do a lot of things. We want it to happen smoothly, quietly. We know there are significant challenges there. We have invested blood and treasure and there's nobody that would like to see it come out better than us in terms of that sacrifice and other nations who've sacrificed.

Except I would argue those that we, in fact, did it for and it's the 26 million people that live there. And so that's huge change, tough to lead, critical time and it's critical for this region. And at the same time, we're adding forces in Afghanistan. I know many of you are very focused on that. The mission that was executed or began very recently in Marjah, which is proceeding well but it's also very early in terms of that mission and what we need to achieve there.

And as it has been in Iraq and as it is in any counterinsurgency, it's not about the military. What Gen. McChrystal's doing there and our troops, everybody, focusing on the population as the center of gravity, which is where we are and it's what we've learned in Iraq and we learned it just in time to execute it in Afghanistan.

And so there's a great deal of change going on there right now. This is a mission in Afghanistan that's being led by the Afghans. It was given approval as the commander in chief by President Karzai for the first time in the history of that country. It is dramatically different from what's been done there in the past.

And initially, it's going well, but again, it's early and I'm old enough, been around long enough that there's some hard days ahead there and I know that and we know that we should gird for that. This is going to be a very difficult year in Afghanistan. There are going to be more and more sacrifices, more and more losses, as the violence level as we push through this year, to reverse the momentum of the Taliban.

And so we need to be prepared for that. So it's just a brief comment about change and there's a lot of it in all of us. From very junior to very senior, have to be mindful of that wherever we are as we look to the future.

And then lastly, I'd just like to say a word about leadership. I talk about leading and change being a very difficult - the most difficult kind of leadership and the reason I bring leadership up is because there's nothing that's more important to us, to our success, when we've got it - when we've got good leadership and it is to our failure when we don't. And there's nothing I depend on more.

You know, when things are changing, tough times, have to make hard decisions and I don't - I'm not talking about leadership at my level exclusively. I'm talking about leadership at every level. Junior, mid-grade, senior, front, middle, back, I don't care. And at the heart of that rests our people and our families.

And we've got to lead well, take care of each other, make sure that we think about raising those up behind us. We got here because somebody made a difference in our lives, whether it was a coach, a teacher, a command sergeant major, a senior chief petty officer, a second lieutenant.

Whoever it might be, somebody made a difference in our lives and my view is - or I would ask you to think about figuring out a way to do only one thing - make a difference in somebody else's life. We are a growing institution that depends on that. And this extends across the full spectrum of who we are, how we take care of ourselves, how we treat each other, which should be exactly like we want to be treated and ensure that there's growth and opportunity for those that are coming behind us.

So again, thanks for what you do. Thanks to your families who have been magnificent in supporting you and us and we could not succeed without them. This is an incredible time of change. I can just pick the subject and change is at the heart of it. And I would have each and every one of you take care of yourself, take care of each other and lead well. Thank you. (Applause.)

Okay, ground rules on questions. I'll give you the best answer I can give you. If I don't know the answer, you give me your e-mail address, I'll get you a set order. (Laughter.) Actually, I'm kidding. I'm kidding. That should be a complete sentence for anybody that's writing that down. If you give me your e-mail, you give me your e-mail address, I'll actually get back to you with an answer, a better answer.

Part of why I do this is to find out what's going on where you live. I actually am senior enough now to make change, have an impact, but I can't do that if I don't know what's going on. So part of this is education for me as well. With that in mind, please fire away.

Q: Good afternoon, sir. Lt. Bell, United States - (inaudible) - Air Force base. My question is what do you foresee -

MR. : Can you hold for the mike, please?

ADM. MULLEN: I'll repeat the question. This has got to move quickly or we're going to be a long time and we'll get like two questions.

Q: (Off mike.)

ADM. MULLEN: Barauder (ph). So the question is what do I see as the strategic results after a barauder has been called. I don't know. I've spent a lot of my time in the last couple of years in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, come to learn a lot. And I talk about - I talked earlier about listening and learning and leading - no better example. What I have learned every time I go to Pakistan is how much I don't know. I've learned a lot. It's an enormously complex and critical part of the world or we wouldn't be there.

This mission is focused on al-Qaida. We shouldn't forget that. And al-Qaida killed over 3,000 Americans. And they're still out there and they're living in Pakistan, the leadership. And they still plan against us. And their networks, quite frankly. I see their growth in Yemen. I see their growth in other places - networking with terrorist organizations in large regional areas and in fact, in ways, globally.

So I honestly don't know. I would say that his capture is a big boon. I give the Pakistanis a great deal of credit for that. And there are many possibilities. And I'd say this is as complex a part of the world as I've ever been in and I think the answer to that is as complex as it should be. So I honestly don't know at this point. But I know it's - we all know it's significant. And the details of that I think will come out over time.

MR. : We have a question on the red mike in the back, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: Yeah, go ahead. If you can get the questions in advance or get a mike in advance, that will work too.

Q: Admiral, I'm Sgt. Needham (sp) from the expeditionary security forces squadron. Sir, my question has to do with -

ADM. MULLEN: Where are you out of?

Q: I am out of McGuire Air Force Base, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: Okay.

Q: Fourth - (inaudible). With the drawback with Iraq when it comes to a conclusion, what's going to be the posture of military forces in Iraq.

ADM. MULLEN: What's the posture of our forces in - you mean in Iraq afterward?

Q: Yes, sir. After the drawback.

ADM. MULLEN: Right now, as I said, I know what's going to happen over the next six months coming down to 50,000. Under the current agreement that we will draw down to zero in December of 2011. What happens on the 7th of March is we have elections there. It will take them probably - it will take them several months to stand up a new government and then I think the answer to your question comes out of that.

So I just don't know. Certainly there's been a strong desire on both our parts and the Iraq leadership part to have an enduring strong relationship between our countries. And I think that's a principle that underpins how we will move forward. But specific, the - (inaudible) - of that, I'm just not sure. And we're going to have work that when they get their new government in and when they decide how they want to move forward.

Q: Thank you, sir.

ADM. MULLEN: Okay.

Q: Sir, I have a - Capt. Jeff Kramer (sp) from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Sir, I was curious if you focus on the ground war -

ADM. MULLEN: Can't hear you. He's on, you just got to -

Q: Sir, with the focus on the ground war over the last 10 years, do you feel like right now we're adequately equipped and resourced to engage in an air campaign should the need arise?

ADM. MULLEN: I was just over at the Air Warfare Center and I remarked to a couple of people there that I hadn't been in an air warfare center theater like that, looking at an air-to-air campaign in a long time. But I'm also mindful of the training that's going on there, which I - I'm not an aviator but I've done a lot of this and I understand and it's really terrific training.

I'm also reminded that it's being done here, pretty close to a country that concerns me a lot just across the water. Response times are zip in that environment, although it looks like a pretty nice training range from what I could see. For those of you who have seen training ranges before, lots of air space and a way to do this that really is terrific.

So I mean, my overall confidence would be pretty high. We have not focused on a lot of our conventional missions since we have been focused on these two fights. And I don't care what service it is, this would be a good area. But I talked earlier about my belief that we are - in our people and you - and we can adapt pretty quickly.

And while those skills may not be honed to exactly what we would like - actually there are few aviators I've ever met that said they could enough of that - I am confident we have a base and we have this kind of training. And it's going on back in the U.S. as well, that we could adapt pretty quickly. I was taken aback, quite frankly, I hadn't thought of a 30- or 40-ship flight in a long time. So I was delighted to see that training and delighted to see other countries in on it. But I think we'd be okay. I think we'd be okay.

Q: Sir, Capt. - (inaudible). How do you perceive our relationship with the countries in the region, specifically the UAE and Pakistan?

ADM. MULLEN: Well, I mean, our relationship with the UAE is exceptionally strong and continues to grow. I was, I think, first here - certainly in this region in 1981, which I know is a long time ago for you. And first actually at Alpha Gira (ph) in 1986. So I've seen it. I've seen it grow over time, not just with UAE, but with the Gulf States. I mean, as a Navy guy heavily focused on Bahrain and we've had engagements with and support by Bahrain since the late '40s.

So I've seen it grow over time and it continues to grow. But I'd also characterize it's been brought to my attention by everybody who lives here on this trip of the growing concern with Iran, the growing hegemonic concerns about Iran, the focus that Iran has on achieving nuclear weapons, the crackdown that everybody - that is going on, the human rights kinds of things that are going on in Iran that are seen worldwide, quite frankly, because of the technology that's out there right now.

And each of these regional countries are - many of them our long term partners - are incredibly concerned about that. And everybody would like an answer to what's going to happen specifically. There's an awful lot of work going on. You know our secretary of state was just out here, very focused on increasing the international pressure, bringing these sanctions which are going before the U.N. here, supported by an awful lot of countries. And as we move forward, Iran continues to isolate itself from the world community and I think that will continue to happen.

So I see the relationship as very strong. In the end, it is very dependent on you. It is literally dependent on you and your personal engagement with the United Arab Emirates - the citizens of this country. And I know we are welcome, have been welcome for a long time. I've spoken with the leadership, spoke with military, the political leadership here and in other countries. And it's a vital part of the world for obviously those who live here but also for the United States.

What time is it?

(Off mike.)

What time is it? Ten minutes. (Laughter.) Can you get through it? (Chuckles.)

Q: Morning, sir, I'm Tech Sgt. Rope (sp) from the aerial port at Andrews. My question is with "don't ask, don't tell" being talked about being repealed, what is the real-world impact that will have on the military as it is today?

ADM. MULLEN: Actually, I really appreciate the question because if you hadn't brought it up, I was going to bring it up. This is the fourth town hall I've done, small to big. This is the first time that anybody has asked me about it. The whole idea of the review over the next many months - let's say to the end of this year - is to very specifically understand the impact if and when the policy changes - the law changes.

This is a law. There are those that think the president can just sign an executive order and it will change. Every lawyer that I've talked to says that can't be. The law has to change. So this has to come from Congress. And so what we want to do and what I feel responsible to do is to make sure I understand the impact and, should the law change, the implementation requirements because this is a military issue principally. This isn't a civilian issue; this is for us.

And I talked about leadership earlier and all of us have to lead whatever it is. And if and when this changes, then we must lead this as well. So understanding the impact and the implementation literally will certainly provide me the opportunity to understand how I have to lead, what issues I need to address - all of us - I'll speak for myself - and do this responsibly.

And a couple of - so that's why, in fact, it is going to take a while. And I feel particularly compelled to ensure we get this right from a timing standpoint - length of time - and from an implementation schedule. And I don't have either right now. This study will go towards the end of this year. After that, my expectations are that there will be legislation which will follow which obviously Congress is going to have to vote on. And then we'll move forward on that. So that's really - that's where we are and that's what will happen over the next many months.

The whole idea - I looked at this over the last several months, this issue - there are a couple of things. And I mentioned this in my testimony - most of this in my testimony. I mean, I was here in 1993. I was actually at sea on a ship and one of the things that happened is because it sort of exploded on us, it put the force in the middle of that debate very quickly. And one of my goals is to make sure that doesn't happen this time and that we look at it carefully.

And as I have researched don't ask, don't tell and gays and lesbians in our service and trying to get information about it - and as I said the other day, I mean, I know - I know - I have served with gays since 1968. That is how long I've been in - and don't do an age calculation here, but - since that time. And understanding, but there is no - despite polls, despite what you see publicly, in opinion and all that - there's no really objective data about how it will affect you. And that's what we - that's what I need to find out from you and your families over the next many months.

And then understanding that - that's the principal goal of this review. Yes, and we'll look at policies as best we understand it. And we'll look at other countries who have done this and the impact there - although most of the feedback I've gotten from those countries is, when they made the change, you know, there was a lot of debate ahead of time, but there just wasn't that much impact after the policy got changed.

So we have all that to go through and so in the end, I don't know what the impact will be. That's what we've got to find out. And over the next better part of this year, we hope to do that. So I would encourage you - and I need honest, frank input on this as we move forward so that we really do understand the impact. Okay. Last questions.

Q: Sir, Sgt. Harris, 1/7 Battalion, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Sir, I was wondering with the stop of the free enlistment in March, is there a plan to fill deployment slots? And do you think this will decrease dwell time or force longer deployments? And how do you think this will affect the lifecycle units in the army?

ADM. MULLEN: What did you say in March, sorry - the beginning?

Q: The stop of - reenlistments, sir?

ADM. MULLEN: We're stopping reenlistments in March for the army?

Q: Right, that's what we're being told sir.

ADM. MULLEN: Really?

MR. : (Off mike.)

ADM. MULLEN: Stopping bonuses?

MR. : Bonuses. (Off mike.)

ADM. MULLEN: What's going on here, help me? (Laughter.) Let me - so give me your e-mail address and I'll get you that set of orders I was talking about. (Laughter.) No, give me your e-mail address and I'll do some research here. One of the things that's going on right now - actually in all the services - is recruiting is in really good shape and retention is in really good shape.

What do I mean by really good shape? You know, we got down - I think 2 years ago - I think 2008 - in the Army where our high school graduates were - and it may have been 2007 - hovering right around 80 percent, 79, 80 percent. When the financial crisis hit as is often the case, both in a recruiting and a retention basis, all our numbers went up, including the Army's. And the last number I saw - and I'm a little dated on this - but essentially army recruiting was upwards of 95, 96 percent in terms of high school graduates.

Now, the things that I've seen over time - tough to say exactly why somebody succeeds. But I don't think there's any stronger indicator in whether someone succeeds in the military than having a high school graduation certificate. And it went up from fast - from the low 80s to the mid-to-high 90s. The same thing - the wavers have gone down dramatically. And with an increased level of retention - and I want to say, I think with the exception of 2005 - in these extraordinarily difficult times, all the services have made their retention numbers throughout this time.

How many recruiters here? Watch this. One, two, three, four - and I need great recruiters. If you want a relief, you want to get another set of orders, you got to have somebody come in behind you. And it's not just up to somebody else. There's no more difficult duty than recruiting duty. I've talked to - I've seen it. I've been out there; I've seen them. They're special people and it is difficult.

So I need people to go do that and it needs to be more than four out of 1,000, quite frankly. But as we've seen and what happens is as more and more stay in, the money that I get to incentivize reenlistments gets put where I need it or it gets reduced. That's why I asked up here - where is - was it Koonan (sp)? Huh? Uh-huh, what do you do?

MR. KOONAN: Contracts officer.

ADM. MULLEN: You're a contracts -

MR. KOONAN: Contracts officer.

ADM. MULLEN: You're a contracting officer. So what I'll tell you about his specialty is we're short. And it wouldn't be just his specialty; it might even be his pay-grade at his level. So that's what you see the army - and I'm guessing here - is saying, hey, I got enough this year. Now, I've been with units since the middle of the surge in the fight whose recruiting numbers - I'm sorry, retention numbers - were achieved halfway through the year.

So I suspect that's what we have, so you got to choose your moment here, quite frankly. And 20 great soldiers and airmen just did. Okay, last question.

Q: (Off mike.)

ADM. MULLEN: I'll repeat it. Go ahead.

Q: (Off mike.)

ADM. MULLEN: Do I think the tactics that we are - the guerrilla tactics that are employed against us every day - are we approaching that? Or are our tactics and TTPs the right ones? Absolutely. But I will tell you the difference. I talked earlier about what we learned in Iraq. We became the best counterinsurgency force in the world and we did it just in time because of the needs in Afghanistan. We couldn't take 2 years to learn that and have the impact in the time we need to have it in Afghanistan.

First of all, the big difference in Afghanistan that makes it more challenging at your level - at the small unit level - is this focus on civilian casualties. And what we've learned is - now, you just reverse this for yourself - imagine being in your home somewhere and someone's trying to help you and they're killing your wife and your kids. You know, it's a hard message to match up. So what we've learned is the significance of it and we must eliminate it.

And that's the challenge that we have in the air, quite frankly. There is a different conversation going on between JTACs and pilots these days before we pull a trigger for close-air support. There's a different conversation going on for indirect fire support. And there's a different conversation going on directly in the fight about actions that are being taken to make sure we're not killing civilians.

And there is some risk associated with that. And we may win a local fight tactically, but if we kill local civilians, we've lost. We've lost that and we're on our way to losing the big one. And we can't afford to do that.

Okay. Thanks again. Again, I've got coins up here if you want to come by and pick one up. Take care and God bless.

Courtesy Joint Staff Public Affairs. See more at http://www.jcs.mil.