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When its time to answer questions, many hands go up. People want to know about the differences between Sunnis and Shiites, whether the military wants a draft (The official Army answer is no, he says, smiling, before explaining that soldiers are volunteering and re-enlisting at impressive rates) and about the trouble with private security contractors. Library CEO Crosby Kemper III eventually halts the Q&A because of time this audience might have kept Cardon all night.
Simonds, Huffman and Meals hang around while the room empties. No one stops to ask them any questions, though one man, a pilot who notices Simonds Air Force uniform, pauses briefly to chat. As Simonds said back in the Liberty Memorials cafeteria last August, With whats happened since the whole Iraq War and how weve interacted with the media as a military, I see how weve messed it up. We should become more educated and not be afraid to say things, not be afraid to put out information. Because people need to know.
Caldwell is aiming at changing the militarys tight-lipped culture one generation of officers at a time. He wants his officers to feel confident enough to become storytellers and have faith that people are listening. We have to get much broader guidelines, trust our subordinates with a lot more, he tells The Pitch. Ever a realist, he urges patience rather than frustration: Probably 30 percent of the time, when youre talking to the media, things wont really turn out the way you perhaps wanted them to. But you know what? Thats OK we cant change it, and we shouldnt try to control it.
Military culture wont change overnight, but its leadership can. Allen, the CGSC instructor, still has doubts. I wonder what happens when he [Caldwell] leaves, he says. What will the next commanders big issue be? Will it be the same or will it be different? Weve seen that happen with changes in administration. Id say, as someone formerly skeptical, Im curious to see how this lives on after his departure.
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