FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left, gave a "challenge coin" to Cpl. Kelli Rohm yesterday after speaking to and answering questions from troops at Hickam Air Force Base.
Head of Joint Chiefs touts isles’ importance to local troops
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed the need for strong leadership at all levels of the military yesterday during a meeting with military personnel in Honolulu.
"We are being pushed very hard right now," he said. "I'm very focused on leadership because I think in very difficult times there's nothing that will solve more difficult problems than great leadership."
Mullen, the nation's top military officer, was in Honolulu yesterday before flying off to visit Australian officials.
During the day, Mullen visited wounded personnel at Tripler Army Medical Center and leaders of U.S. Pacific Command. His wife spent part of the day meeting spouses of Hawaii-based military personnel.
"It's an opportunity to come up to speed on what's going on in this incredibly important part of the world," Mullen said. "I know how important this area is. It's growing in importance all the time, and a lot of that ties to the resources and the economies around the Pacific Basin."
More than 200 officers and enlisted personnel from all military branches listened to Mullen at the Hickam Air Force Base Officers Club.
During a question-and-answer period, service members raised concerns about inadequate equipment and any likelihood of longer rotations.
"It's hard for us to get new gear. We tend to go online and just order it, aftermarket," said an unidentified Marine lance corporal. After purchasing the items, they are told that they cannot wear them, he said. "Why is that that we're not allowed to wear aftermarket gear?"
Mullen responded, "I'm anxious to take a look at it."
"It's been a very healthy day here for me in terms of feedback and coming up to speed with what's going on in the Pacific," he said.
Mullen also voiced his support of stationing the Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Hawaii, a unit of 398 20-ton vehicles. The unit is deployed to Iraq, but an environmental impact statement recommends keeping the brigade in Hawaii, to the ire of environmentalists and anti-war activists.
"The Stryker capability is a great capability," Mullen said. "I think having it here is a really important step and a very strong signal about the importance of being here in Hawaii, which is an incredibly supportive state of our military and our people and our family."