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Eric Ken Shinseki: Nominee For 7th United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs

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A short introduction to a man who just might help the veterans' community, with info thanks to President-elect Barack Obama's website Change Dot Gov and Wikipedia.

Eric Ken Shinseki

Born in Hawaii to a Japanese-American family, Eric Shinseki graduated from West Point in 1965. He went on to serve in the Army for 38 years, from 1965 to 2003, including two combat tours in Vietnam, where he lost part of his right foot. He served as Chief of Staff of the Army from 1999-2003. His career has been marked by innovation, vision, and fierce loyalty to the troops who served under him. He is the recipient of numerous decorations, including: Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster); Army Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster); Navy Distinguished Service Medal; Air Force Distinguished Service Medal; Coast Guard Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster); Bronze Star with "V" Device (with two Oak Leaf Clusters); Purple Heart (with Oak Leaf Cluster); Meritorious Service Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters); Air Medal; Army Commendation Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster); Army Achievement Medal; Parachutist Badge; Ranger Tab; Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge; Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge.

Shinseki was born in Lihue, Kauai in the then Territory of Hawaii, to a Japanese American family. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Duke University. He was also educated at the Armor Officer Advanced Course, the United States Army Command and General Staff College, and the National War College.

Shinseki served in a variety of command and staff assignments in the Continental United States and overseas, including two combat tours with the 9th and 25th Infantry Divisions in the Republic of Vietnam as an artillery forward observer and as commander of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment. During one of those tours, he stepped on a land mine, which blew off the front of one of his feet.

He has served at Schofield Barracks, Hawai'i with Headquarters, United States Army Hawaii, and Fort Shafter with Headquarters, United States Army Pacific. He has taught at the U.S. Military Academy s Department of English. During duty with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas, he served as the regimental adjutant and as the executive officer of its 1st Squadron.

Shinseki s ten-plus years of service in Europe included assignments as Commander, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Infantry Division (Schweinfurt); Commander, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Kitzingen); Assistant Chief of Staff, G3, 3rd Infantry Division (Operations, Plans and Training) (W1/4rzburg); and Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver, 3rd Infantry Division (Schweinfurt). The 3rd ID was organized at that time as a heavy mechanized division. He also served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G3 (Operations, Plans and Training), VII Corps (Stuttgart). Shinseki served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Support, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (Verona), an element of the Allied Command Europe.

From March 1994 to July 1995, Shinseki commanded the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. In July 1996, he was promoted to lieutenant general and became Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, United States Army. In June 1997, Shinseki was appointed to the rank of general before assuming duties as Commanding General, Seventh United States Army; Commander, Allied Land Forces Central Europe; and Commander, NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Shinseki became the Army's 28th Vice Chief of Staff on 24 November 1998, then became its 34th Chief of Staff on 1999-06-22. Shinseki retired on 11 June 2003 at the end of his four-year term. His Farewell Memo contained some of his ideas regarding the future of the military.

Shinseki is the only Japanese American and Asian American to be promoted to the Army's top position and being the first four star general of Asian descent in the US military.

Shinseki has served as a director for several corporations: Honeywell International and Ducommun, military contractors; Grove Farm Corporation; First Hawaiian Bank; and Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. He is a member of the Advisory Boards at the Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and to the U.S. Comptroller General. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council of the United States, and the Association of the United States Army.

On December 7, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama announced at a Chicago press conference that once in office, he would nominate Shinseki to become the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

End of Tour Memorandum - 10 June 2003 - Abridged From 12 Pages

After 38 years of service to this great Nation, I shall depart the Office of Chief of Staff, Army on 11 June 2003 and retire from the active ranks on 31 July 2003. I feel duty bound to provide some of my closing thoughts concerning The Army, the Department of Defense, and the security of the United States. In doing so, I follow a precedent that goes back to at least the retirement of Matthew B. Ridgway in June of 1955. I offer these comments in an attempt to be helpful to the Department of Defense in addressing near-term threats around the world while transforming to meet future, but yet unknown, challenges.

Much has been written and said about the supposed ill will that exists between the Office of the Secretary of Defense ("OSD") and The Army. For my part, I would say that much too much has been made of all that - the making of national defense policy and the critical decisions associated therein are not for the thin-skinned or faint of heart who are insecure in their public image. I am also secure in the knowledge that recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have demonstrated the Army's readiness to handle a broad range of missions on short notice and revalidated its critical role in the Nation's defense.

I would like to quote Ridgway's description of the role of a military advisor:

He should give his competent professional advice on the military aspects of the problems referred to him, based on his fearless, honest, objective estimate of the national interest, and regardless of administration policy at any particular time. He should confine his advice to the essentially military aspects.

I would also like to quote then Army Chief of Staff, General Dwight Eisenhower, on the same subject, when testifying before Congress in 1947:

I appear before you only as a professional soldier, to give you a soldier's advice regarding the national defense. I am not qualified to proceed beyond that field; and I do not intend to do so. It is my duty as a Chief of Staff to tell you gentlemen what I believe to be necessary for national security.

Over my four-year tenure as The Army Chief of Staff, I have attempted to live up to the precedents established by men who have held this office. Once a new Secretary of the Army is in position and a new Chief of Staff is nominated and confirmed, I would expect that the new Chief would continue the tradition of providing his best military judgment and advice.

Again, it has been my proud privilege to serve with America's finest men and women over the past 38 years. It has also been an honor to conclude my service to this great Nation as the 34th Chief of Staff of the United States Army.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt