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Army secretary boosts GMC pride during visit

Army secretary boosts GMC pride during visit By Phillip Ramati - pramati@macon.com MILLEDGEVILLE — Peter Boylan, the president of Georgia Military College, knew his students understood that Pete Geren wasn’t just another guest lecturer. Geren, secretary of the Army, spoke to about 450 students from the junior college and prep school Wednesday morning, touching on subjects ranging from courage and troop recruitment to sexual harassment in the Army. “I thought what was wonderful about (the lecture) was that it allowed the cadets to recognize the meaning of the programs we have enrolled them in,” Boylan said. “These programs have real meanings to their lives. (Geren) talked about being focused on character and how it was a necessary antecedent to being a good citizen.” When Geren leaves Washington, D.C., he often goes to Iraq or Afghanistan to talk with troops. But Powell Moore, a GMC graduate who worked with Geren for several years in Washington, told him about the school. “He told me about this great institution and about how so many great leaders came from GMC,” Geren said. “They put soldiers in the Army — 37 in this graduating class. They have outstanding ROTC and JROTC programs.” Geren said the Army needs to recruit soldiers who have strong moral backgrounds and are capable of making decisions for themselves when they are deployed. “It’s the youth of today who will shape the future of this country,” he said. “We need flexible, adaptable leaders who can behave as moral leaders, not just great soldiers. They can learn to be great citizens. ... GMC is producing people who have the total package. Only three out of 10 young people have the physical, educational and moral requirements to join the Army.” Geren said that since terrorists often use online resources and communications in their operations, having a generation of soldiers who “speak Internet like a second language” is especially important as the military continues to adapt. Another area where Geren wants change is taking control of sexual harassment and assault problems that have beset the Army and the rest of the armed forces. Geren talked about some 1,800 soldiers being punished, saying the number is unacceptable. “The Army is held together by values, by soldiers taking care of soldiers,” Geren said. “We were a band of brothers, but women are playing an important role in the Army. We have to be a band of brothers and sisters.” Geren noted that this year marks the 60th anniversary since President Harry Truman integrated the armed forces, and the Army is now color-blind in its opportunities for soldiers. He said he wants the same attitude with men and women in the Army. During his speech, Geren told cadets that increasing the number of soldiers is a top priority, so much so that a plan to increase the Army by about 75,000 troops has been moved up to 2010. Now, he said, there are about 690,000 active-duty soldiers, including reservists and members of the National Guard, serving and those soldiers are carrying a heavy load in their time overseas. He said the Army hopes to extend the “dwell time” between deployments to help the troops’ well-being. Geren was appointed the 20th secretary of the Army by President Bush in July 2007, overseeing a budget of $170 billion and leading a work force of more than half a million people. He joined the Department of Defense in September 2001 and served as acting secretary of the Air Force in 2005. He previously was a congressman in Texas’ 12th District for four terms. Boyland said Geren took time to meet with a group of the college’s cadets at breakfast, and he met a contingent of the high school’s seniors after his lecture, answering their questions and getting their thoughts on the Army. Joe Grant, a second-year cadet from Tifton who is graduating soon, said it’s important for the cadets to have someone of Geren’s stature visit the campus. “The main thing I learned was the Army is changing a lot and will continue to change,” he said. “He talked about a lot of stuff that I didn’t know about, like the stats about sexual assault. I had never heard about that until this morning.” David Tanner, a sophomore cadet from Warner Robins, said it was a point of pride to have Geren on campus. “It’s actually a pretty good feeling, especially for the secretary of the Army to come to our school,” he said. “That he’s looking into a smaller program will get people looking at our school and the leadership capabilities we have here.” To contact Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.