COLUMBUS, Georgia — Reductions in U.S. military forces could leave America vulnerable to future threats, a retired general warned in a speech Friday.
“It is absolutely unacceptable for leaders in Washington not to be prepared for the unexpected,” retired Army Lt. Gen. R.L. “Sam” Wetzel said in an address during graduation ceremonies for infantry troops at Fort Benning.
Wetzel, who first saw combat as a company commander in the Korean War, remarked that America’s historic pattern is for military decreases in times of peace, followed by unexpected crises caused by enemy attacks like Pearl Harbor, which plunged the U.S. into World War II, and the Communist invasion that began the Korean War.
Wetzel, 82, noted the current threat from North Korea — which has developed ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons — and especially the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran. He said the current problem posed by Islamic radicalism can be traced to the Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution in Iran.
“These radical Islamists are out to destroy our American way of life,” Wetzel said during his speech at the graduation ceremonies at Fort Benning’s National Infantry Museum.
Pentagon officials held a meeting in Columbus this week to get community input on the Army’s proposal to demobilize the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division — currently stationed at Fort Benning — as part of a plan to reduce the Army from 562,000 troops to 490,000 troops by 2017.
Wetzel, who was formerly the post commander of Fort Benning as well as former commander of the Third Infantry, urged the Pentagon panel to keep the brigade, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported: “We must not be unprepared for the next [war]. That is the message I want you to take that back to Washington. I think everybody in this room agrees with me. We’ve got to be thinking about the future.”