Brig. Gen. Malcolm Frost was clear Thursday when he addressed the Maneuver Captains Career Course at Fort Benning — times are changing.
The chief of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army spent the day talking to young officers who will be the military’s future leaders.
Unlike it has been over the last 15 years with the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the fights are not front and center.
“Things have changed,” Frost said “... We have 190,000 soldiers forward station deployed or supported in 140 countries, yet the American people don’t know it. ... That line of connectivity through the lens of warfare every single day the American people got is now gone. Now, what’s happening is that drift and that connection they got with applause in airports and with applause at football games is starting to go away because we are not there every single day.”
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It is important that the public understand where the troops are and what they are doing, Frost said.
“What is our source of power as an Army?” he asked. “It’s the American people. How it is manifested? It is manifested in three ways — trust and confidence, recruiting and dollars. We enjoyed all of those in great, great abundance the last 15 years — your entire careers for every one in this class.”
Soldiers have taken the trust for granted, Frost said.
“You know nothing different, highest trust and confidence, all the recruits we needed and all the dollars we needed to execute the wars,” he said. “Now guess what? Trust and confidence is fleeting, it’s temporal in nature. You lose it in buckets and you earn it in drips.”
Prior to his current command in the Pentagon, Frost was deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, N.C. The Army faces a difficult time recruiting during this environment.
“We have to recruit 62,000 soldiers this year, active duty alone,” he said to the class of about 75 students. “... And we are recruiting against a 17-24-year-old population of 34 million of which 29 percent, or 2.9 out of every 10, are not recruit-able from a physical, mental or incarceration standpoint. When we look at those who have a propensity to serve, we are trying to tap into a pool of 380,00 young Americans to fill the same high-quality force that the American people have come to know and you only know. That is tough.”
Most of his nearly hour talk focused on leadership. Throughout he stressed communication.
“It’s not enough to communicate so that you are understood; you have to communicate so that you are not misunderstood.”