Gen. Pace Reflects on What Makes a Moral Soldier

Gen. Peter Pace

hide captionGen. Peter Pace, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, attends the annual Memorial Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery, May 29, 2006. Pace keeps on his desk a photograph of the first Marine he lost in combat.

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As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace is the main military adviser to the president and secretary of defense and National Security Council. That's a heavy responsibility to bear during a prolonged, deadly war like the current conflict in Iraq.

Pace says a guiding principle is a promise he made to himself after the death of the first Marine he lost in combat. The four-star general keeps a picture of the fallen Marine on his desk "as a reminder of all the individuals who I lost in combat as a second lieutenant.

"[It's a reminder] of the promise I made to myself then and repeat to myself every day: That I'm going to do everything I can in my power to make sure the guys and gals in the battlefield now are being properly led, and properly taken care of," he says.

Pace acknowledges that the emotional toll of war can be brutal. To restrain the impulse to lash out and become hardened against civilians, he says servicemen and women need to decide, before heading into battle, what they would and would not allow themselves to do.

"If you haven't thought through who you want to be at the end of the day, you may not like who you are at the end of the day," Pace says.

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Though military officials report that more and more Iraqi security forces are prepared for combat, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq has not been going down. Pace explains the difficulties in withdrawing U.S. troops.

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