Guard leader: Never lose focus

Published 5:00 am Thursday, September 23, 2004

Mississippi’s adjutant general says the U.S. must remaincommitted to fighting the “faceless identity of internationalterrorism” for years to come.

“We need to never lose sight of the fact we are at war,” Maj.Gen. Harold Cross said Wednesday at a joint meeting of theBrookhaven Kiwanis and Lions clubs.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, Cross said a total of 6,000 MississippiNational Guardsmen have been activated for service. He expected acontinued need for the guard and other members of the U.S. armedservices.

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“We have never asked this much of employers or families as wehave today,” Cross said.

Cross said the U.S. is committed to fighting the war forward innot only Iraq and Afghanistan but other places around the world.Unlike previous wars and conflicts, Cross said, there would not bea clear end to the war on terrorism.

“This is a war that could very well go on for generations,”Cross said, citing a need for continued investment in themilitary.

Cross said the enemy is intent on bringing down the UnitedStates and does not fight by conventional rules of combat. He saidterrorists have a “kamikaze mentality.”

“They do not fear death …,” Cross said. “It’s a fight we havenever seen anything like before.”

Cross said the strategy for military preparedness is to defendthe homeland while also deploying forces to deter aggression inEurope and parts of Asia. Also, he said, the U.S. is maintaining aforce with the capability of handling two overlapping conflicts,while winning one so decisively that it affects regime change inthe region.

The U.S. is facing that formidable challenge with a force thatis 40 percent less than what it was at the end of the Cold War in1989. Cross said U.S. forces amount to about eight-tenths of 1percent of the U.S. population.

“They’re being stretched to about the length of theirelasticity,” Cross said.

Cross said it is the U.S.’s responsibility to set the tempo ofworld civility. To do that will take focus that goes beyond therhetoric of political campaigns.

“We’re playing the away game now, but the home game’s coming,”Cross said. “That’s where our focus needs to be.”

Recalling bleak days of earlier U.S. wars and conflicts, Crosssaid the country’s freedom depends on everyone remaining focused onthe war on terrorism.

“It is incumbent that we pass on to future generations freedom,”Cross said.