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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 12:51 GMT
Wars 'useful', says US army chief
Peter Schoomaker
Schoomaker wants to free up more troops for combat
The head of the United States army has said that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have provided a "tremendous focus" for the military.

General Peter Schoomaker said in an interview with AP news agency that the wars had allowed the army to instil its soldiers with a "warrior ethos".

But the general, who became chief of staff in August, denied warmongering saying the army must be ready to fight.

He also said he doubted recruiting more troops was a solution to army stress.

Now we have this focusing opportunity, and we have the fact that terrorists have actually attacked our homeland, which gives it some oomph
General Peter Schoomaker
"You aren't stronger because you have more people," he said, adding that expanding the army was similar to pouring water on sand.

Many senior military figures have expressed concern about "overstretch", a problem which has become particularly acute in post-war situations like Iraq which require more troops than combat.

But General Schoomaker says the answer could be to expand combat strength by freeing troops from other assignments.

'Silver lining'

General Schoomaker said the attacks on America in September 2001 and subsequent events had given the US army a rare opportunity to change.

"There is a huge silver lining in this cloud," he said.

"War is a tremendous focus... Now we have this focusing opportunity, and we have the fact that [terrorists] have actually attacked our homeland, which gives it some oomph."

He said it was no use having an army that did nothing but train.

"There's got to be a certain appetite for what the hell we exist for," he said.

"I'm not warmongering, the fact is we're going to be called and really asked to do this stuff."

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13 Jan 04  |  Americas
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09 Sep 03  |  Americas
US army battles to keep soldiers
06 Jan 04  |  Americas

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