Defense secretary chats with enlisted personnel

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel may be the top man in the Pentagon, but it appears the former Army sergeant and squad leader is making an effort to get some feedback from outside the E-ring housing senior officials.

Hagel on Thursday had lunch with six junior enlisted servicemembers, one each from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard and the National Guard, for a two-way Q&A session. He told reporters he plans to host such a meeting each month.

The servicemembers were selected by the services for the meeting. Many have deployed to Afghanistan, and some also deployed to Iraq.

Hagel said the men and women at the lunch can “talk about whatever is on their minds” and ask him questions, but he’ll be picking their brains as well.

“It’s a tremendous way to humanize a relationship, but particularly important for me, as I am new here,” Hagel said during a Pentagon press conference.

“You can have all the technology and the advanced weapons and plans and strategies, but if you don’t have the right people, it won’t work.”

While they ate hot dogs, sandwiches, fruit and cookies, Hagel talked to the men and women about why they joined the military, their aspirations for the future in and out of the military, and any concerns they might have.

In uncertain times, Hagel said, it isn’t enough to just reassure people — a leader must also get their feedback.

“So that’s what I did here for the last hour and a half,” he said.


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