WASHINGTON — Soldiers, civilians and their families remain at the center of the Army's legacy and future, senior leaders said Monday, as the service moved beyond a challenging year to celebrate its 246th birthday.
While participating in a birthday cake-cutting ceremony, Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth felt that the cake was a fitting symbol for the service, as each requires a recipe, quality ingredients, and precise measurements to complete.
Emblematic of the cake-making process, the Army's most significant ingredient — a diverse and inclusive workforce — is at its best when thoroughly integrated within the service.
The result is an institution worthy of the label “world's finest land-fighting force,” Wormuth added.
The Army has maintained a "winning attitude" since being created on June 14, 1775, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville. He added the service's proud legacy continues today with the extraordinary men and women who choose to raise their right hand to serve, especially during the recent demanding times.
Over the past year, the Army responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, civil unrest, and provided Soldiers to protect the National Capital Region, said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston.
"It has been an incredible year, and I couldn't be more proud of our Army," Grinston said. "A special thanks to [National Guard and Reserve] Soldiers that ... continue to be out there on the frontlines every day."
The Army also had more than 140,000 Soldiers deployed across 140 different countries in support of missions, including combating transnational terrorism, deterring near-peer competition, and strengthening relationships with allies and partners.
"When we send our troops somewhere, we are not sending them to participate," McConville said. "We send them to win because there is no second place or honorable mention when it comes to combat. Every single day, our troops understand that and they live up to that message."
Today's global security environment has evolved to become more complex than any time in history, said Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. The rapid rate of technological change, combined with the increasing threat across the land, maritime, air, cyber, and space domains, continues to strain military readiness.
"Future combat is going to take a different approach," Hicks said. "One thing is immutable — this nation needs its Army, and it will need it in the future.
The Army is an integrated deterrence component, capable of putting boots on ground to secure freedoms, protect vital interests, promote stability, deter aggression, and fight and win the nation's wars, Hicks added.
While Soldiers have safeguarded democracy and defended the nation for the past 246 years, the Army owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to all who paid the ultimate sacrifice or never returned home, Wormuth said.
"For us to succeed on the next battlefield, we are going to have to draw again on the characteristics that defined the forces that first parachuted into Normandy, braved the winter at Chosin Reservoir, sweated in the remote jungles of Vietnam, liberated Kuwait, and then who decimated al-Qaida and ISIS," Wormuth said.
"Our people will always be at the center of both celebrating the legacy of the Army and when realizing the Army's future aspirations," she added.