Intro: Although this is lengthy, you all need to read this. Although it speaks highly of our current military, I think it sounds (once again) an alarm for our society as a whole. Please take the time to read the following...it will give you a better understanding of our ARMY!! THE ARMY AND ITS MAGNIFICENT SOLDIERS This is also why we have the best trained, most awesome Army in history!! Should be required reading for civilians. Mandatory for veterans and military retirees. Absolutely spell-binding are these magnificent warriors! In The 10th Year Of War, A Harder Army, A More Distant America By David Wood, Chief military correspondent The U.S. Army now begins its 10th continuous year in combat, the first time in its history the United States has excused the vast majority of its citizens from service and engaged in a major, decade-long conflict instead with an Army manned entirely by professional warriors. This is an Army that, under the pressure of combat, has turned inward, leaving civilian America behind, reduced to the role of a well-wishing but impatient spectator. A decade of fighting has hardened soldiers in ways that civilians can't share. America respects its warriors, but from a distance. "They don't know what we do,'' said Col. Dan Williams, who commands an Army aviation brigade in Afghanistan. The consequences of this unique milestone in American history are many -- the rise of a new warrior class, the declining number of Americans in public life with the sobering experience of war, the fading ideal of public service as a civic responsibility. But above all, I think, is a perilous shrinking of common ground, the shared values and knowledge and beliefs that have shaped the way Americans think about war. Without it, how will soldiers and civilians ever see this war and its outcome in the same way? Are those faded "Support the Troops'' magnets enough to guide us through what is likely to be the murky and unsatisfactory conclusions and aftermaths of this era's conflicts? I saw the problem clearly when I got home from my most recent reporting trip in Afghanistan, where I was embedded with soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division's 1st Brigade. Many of them were on their second or third combat deployment, a few on their fourth or fifth. Almost without exception they were excited about what they were doing, proud of the progress they could see, confident in their piece of the mission. 'I Don't Have Anything Else to Talk About' At home, I found few people could understand the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many say it's just too complicated, and are convinced that America is losing. In polls, two-thirds now say they oppose the war. As these polls were being taken in July, I was in Kabul, where Army Lt. Col. Michael J. Loos, on his fourth deployment, told me: "I know we are making effective progress. I see it every day. This may be the most important thing I've ever done in the military.'' It's even becoming more difficult for soldier and civilian to converse. Army Capt. Stefan Hutnik, a company commander in Afghanistan, recalls being home from a combat tour and being told by his wife, as they were headed out to a family dinner, please don't talk about the Army or the war. "But,'' he said sadly, "I don't have anything else to talk about.'' My experience, gathered in 30 years of covering the Army as an embedded correspondent in peace and war, suggests that it's already late to fill the gap between today's soldiers and civilians. It might have been easier a decade ago, when the Army was a sleepy garrison force sent abroad on occasional forays as peace keepers. What most soldiers knew of combat was learned at the Army's grueling (but safe) training centers at Fort Irwin, near Death Valley, Calif., and at Fort Polk's sweltering pine woods and swamps in Louisiana. 'We Know War Now' All that changed on Sept. 11, 2001. "They came and said, 'Get in uniform. Grab your weapons and your ruck[sacks]. No showers. Move!' We went straight from the gym to the airfield.'' That's how Derek Sheffer of the 10th Mountain Division went to war 10 years ago. When I met the lanky staff sergeant in Afghanistan weeks later, his uniform was filthy, and he'd still had no shower. Now, more than half a million (665,663, in the Army's latest count) active-duty soldiers have deployed for a year of combat at least once; 292,800 active-duty soldiers have deployed twice or more. "Before 2001 we were largely a garrison-based army,'' said Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff. "We lived to train. I grew up training to fight a war I never fought.'' Since 9/11, Casey has spent 32 months in Iraq, as have many others. "We know war, now,'' he said. The change has been startling -- and unique in American history. Unlike the draftees of the Civil War or even the Greatest Generation of World War II, these soldiers do not become farmers or businessmen or schoolteachers when their tour is over. They reenlist. They are proud, lean and hard. If they have families, their wives and children are battered but tough. The soldiers of this generation are arguably the best fighters in the world. Few civilians can grasp the searing experiences of multiple combat tours. How could civilians comprehend the skill, the stress and the pride of a platoon sergeant who keeps his men alive under fire for a year and brings them home safe? For their part, soldiers whose daily lives depend on self-discipline and sacrifice disdain what they perceive as the loose values, sloppy discipline and quick-buck self-centeredness of civilian society. And each combat deployment drives the two further apart. The rhythms of soldiers' lives are not the familiar ones marked by five-day workweeks, children's birthdays and school vacations, but by repeated 12-month combat tours separated by short months at home, sequestered on sprawling military bases fenced off to outsiders. For many troops, the concept of a "normal'' civilian-like life has faded away. By 2007,Sgt. 1st Class Michael Pore of Findlay, Ohio, had been deployed three times, and was finding he was more comfortable in combat than at home. "As soon as you get back it's a countdown until you go again,'' he said, explaining why he had no civilian friends, no steady girl and no home of his own. "It's just too hard to let down.'' Fewer soldiers are married than a decade ago, as a consequence both of a high divorce rate and soldiers like Pore deciding he couldn't put a wife and child through the wrenching experience of multiple deployments. "I'm scared to even think about a family now,'' he said. Until he got married recently, Capt. Dan Gregory, who commands an infantry company in Afghanistan, found it easiest to "hot bunk'' between year-long deployments, using whatever bed was empty in an apartment he shared with other deploying officers. His real home, he said, is the company operations center, whether at Fort Drum or deployed in combat. "I live my life in 12-month increments,'' he told me.