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VICENZA, Italy — The senior enlisted adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday that U.S. citizens shouldn’t be overly concerned about the fighting spirit of the troops.

Army Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey — fresh from a visit downrange — said troops expressed two main concerns: They’re away from their home too long, and they would like a clearer picture on how many times they’ll be facing similar deployments in the years ahead.

Both are legitimate concerns, he said during a stop in Vicenza on Thursday.

“I’m not going to tell you morale is the best I’ve ever seen it. It’s not,” he said. “I’m not going to tell you it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it. It’s not. They’re getting by with what they have.

“They do get homesick,” Gainey said. “But every one I talked to … their morale is high.

“Except one guy, because you always get one guy who says it sucks.”

Gainey, who has held his position for about 22 months, said he expects he’ll be on the job for another year.

In those 22 months, Gainey said, he’s been pleased by the improved interaction between the service’s top enlisted servicemembers.

“Honestly, that was not there a year and a half ago,” he said.

Not that they agree on everything.

“Each of the services have a different perspective on how things should be,” he said.

He said understanding each other’s perspectives — and contributions — is essential not only for senior leaders, but for all servicemembers. Those servicemembers need to understand that they’re not in the fight alone.

Army tours downrange have been extended to 15 months, but Marines serve about the same amount of time in country over a two-year period. Navy and Air Force personnel are tied to their vehicles, which require more frequent rotations.

He likened the U.S. war effort to an apple pie.

“Everybody’s putting something into the pie,” he said.

The Army might be supplying the apples, because it has the most troops. But other services are supplying key ingredients as well.

“If I pull out the cinnamon, it might look like an apple pie. It might even smell like an apple pie. But it won’t taste like one,” Gainey said.

Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.
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