MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.– The U.S. military needs to continue working on technological advances to fight a pair of wars that are “winnable,” the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday. Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, speaking to a group of Marine Corps University students during the Erskine lecture series, said the U.S. military’s priority is to win the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and be ready for future challenges and threats.

Addressing the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cartwright said, “This fight is winnable.”

The service chiefs are doing a great job preserving, training and equipping the force, Cartwright said. The Army, in particular, has done an amazing transformation by turning from a garrison structure to a more expeditionary force, he said.

“We’re taking an Army and completely transforming it,” Cartwright said. The Army has switched from a division construct to a brigade construct, all while fighting two wars.

“Those are huge changes, larger than anything this Army has done since World War II,” he said.

The reserve forces also have undergone a notable transformation, turning from a strategic mobilization force into an operational force, all while growing larger than the active-duty side of the military.

All of this, the vice chairman said, has transformed the U.S. military into an experienced and more capable force. With the increased experience and capability, Cartwright said, the military will be more able to adapt to a future conflict.

“We might have to spend a couple of months to be ready to go to some different kind of conflict, but it’s going to be a couple of months, not a couple of years,” he said.

The vice chairman said another major advance during the past few years has been unmanned aerial vehicles. Cartwright said the United States has gone from a handful of UAVs at the start of the war in Iraq to hundreds currently. However, he said, UAVs need to develop a common ground station to communicate better.

In addition, the general said, UAVs need to be used more efficiently, and policies need to be examined so UAVs can use different tactics. The general added that the platform also needs to become an all-weather capability.

Another challenge the U.S. military is facing is cultural and language training. While the military has ramped up the training capability, Cartwright said, the United States still is behind allies because of a “speak my language or you’re dumb” mentality.

A great model of success is the international package-delivery company UPS, which runs an aggressive cultural and language training program, the general said. UPS puts employees into the program before stationing them overseas, he said.

“We’ve got to get in the same boat,” Cartwright said.

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