News: Sgt. Maj. of the Army visits Kalsu
Story by Sgt. Jason Stadel
Sgt. Jason Stadel
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – The sergeant major of the Army visited Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Dec. 16, as part of a United Service Organization tour.
Sgt. Maj. Kenneth Preston hosted the USO tour. The visit included two members of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, comedian Sheryl Underwood and country music artist Keni Thomas. The entertainers held a meet-and-greet with the Soldiers.
Preston took a few minutes to speak to the Soldiers that had gathered to see him at Rocky's, the FOB Kalsu dining facility. He spoke about deployments and recruiting. Preston said the increasing number of brigade combat teams should help with the number of individual brigade combat team deployments in the future.
Currently there are 38 brigade combat teams in the Army with another five being stood up by the summer of 2008 Preston said. Of the 38 BCTs, 18 are currently in Iraq and two are in Afghanistan.
"Based on the growth of the Army and the surge draw down we will be back to 15 brigades (in Iraq) by summer," Preston said.
With the Army meeting recruiting goals and five more BCTs coming into existence by the summer the number of times each BCT deploys could decrease in the future.
"The goal is to get to 24 months of dwell time with 12 months or less deployed," said Preston.
Preston also thanked the troops for their service and told them they are an elite group of Americans. He said the Army has challenges in recruiting because of the 300 million Americans, only two million make up the core recruiting demographic.
From that core demographic not every person is eligible because of a lack of education, low test scores, a criminal record or they might have positive choices such as academic and athletic scholarships to colleges and universities, he said.
"It's not about what class of society you come from. It's about being qualified to wear this uniform," Preston said.
Last year 175,000 men and women joined the Army's ranks.
Preston asked the Soldiers to make sure they tell their families and friends back home all the good things that are going on in Iraq because of the efforts of Soldiers. He said the media tends to focus on the negative side of being in the Army.
"When you go back to hometown, U.S.A, you need to tell the Soldier story," he said.
Sheryl Underwood, a comedian made famous from Def Comedy Jam, is a former Airman. "I'm proud to be an American and I'm proud to be here with you," she told the Soldiers.
Keni Thomas is a former U.S. Army Ranger and was a part of Task Force Ranger during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1993.
"It's an honor to be here because of my background and history. The reason I'm here is because of the grace of God and because of the guys I used to have on my left and my right," he said.
The longest line during the meet-and-greet was formed behind Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders Laura Beke and Dara McFarlane. This is the 64th USO tour the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders have been on.
"It makes me happy to see your smiling faces and to see that you're safe," Beke said.