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WASHINGTON — Growing numbers of discipline violations among soldiers could become “cancerous” for the Army’s future, and indicate the stress of years of war, the head of U.S. Army Europe said Wednesday.

The comments from Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling to reporters here represented his latest salvo in a personal campaign to reinforce the importance of character and values. He said that in recent years he has seen serious discipline problems among a small but unsettling percentage of soldiers, both those deployed and those outside the war zone.

“I asked a when I got to U.S. Army Europe for a list of soldiers with more than one DUI,” he said. “I won’t tell you the number, but it was surprising. And then when I asked what has happened with these soldiers? Not much.

“It’s a small percentage of the force, but when you’re talking about becoming a smaller, professional Army, those are the things you have to address.”

He declined to offer more specifics, but said the problems amount to more than just simple uniform violations and minor lapses in judgment.

Before heading up USAREUR, Hertling served as deputy commanding general for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, where one of his goals was to enhance the way Army values are taught to new soldiers. More recently, Hertling starred in a series of American Forces Network commercials emphasizing the importance of Army values.

Hertling’s comments Wednesday came as he spoke about the future of training and missions for soldiers in Europe as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down. He said training in coming years will have to focus on warfare tactics not emphasized in the unconventional battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as work to “reframe our fundamentals.”

That includes lessons on character building, he said.

“There were two brigade commanders in U.S. Army Europe relieved before I got there, both for very different reasons,” he said. “That’s an indicator that some folks aren’t being watched as well as they should, because we’ve been busy.

“Maybe sometimes people are so focused on deployed forces that they miss what going on in the unit. We’ve got to get our commanders back in our units and get them to realize they do more than just plan cordon-and-search operations.”

Reporter Mark Patton contributed to this report.

Twitter: @LeoShane

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