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It's been 47 years since Chuck Hagel patrolled the thick jungles of Vietnam as an Army squad leader. But even now, in his pristine office at the Pentagon overlooking the Potomac River, the defense secretary still can vividly recall the night in when his armored personnel carrier hit a pound mine. Hagel was a year-old Army sergeant when he was hit in the chest with shrapnel, his face burned from a mine blast, his eardrums blown out.
After a gunfight with Viet Cong troops, he recalls, he and other soldiers who were in "pretty bad shape" waited for a medevac helicopter. They dusted us off to a field hospital. It has been seared into my mind," he said. We're products of our experiences.
Certainly that experience in war in Vietnam in The instrument of our military is required, unfortunately, and history is rather replete on that point. Maybe someday they will not be required, but they are. Using it wisely, using it carefully, and using it judiciously.
We have not always done that and I have been very vocal on that point," he said. Sign up for the Early Bird Brief - a daily roundup of military and defense news stories from around the globe. By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. Hagel will soon step down after two years on the job, reportedly amid tension with the White House's inner circle over the U. Hagel 's experience at the Pentagon has been unique in several ways.
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He is the first Vietnam veteran to hold the powerful post, and the first who served as a noncommissioned officer. And unlike several of his predecessors, he did not arrive with extensive experience as a national security professional, but rather with a background working with veterans and the military community — he was the number two man at the Veterans Affairs Department in the s and later served as the CEO of the USO. His legacy will he shaped in part by his caution regarding the use of military force.
Now where do you want to go? What happens next? Where do you want this to end up? Those are the questions that you ask.
This also applies to inaction. If you take no action, what are the consequences?
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His supporters say that approach is measured and prudent; he is careful to consider the full impact of military strikes and troop deployments. But his critics say he has been indecisive, hesitant to exercise America's massive military might and uncomfortable with the tough choices required of the leader of the Defense Department.
Hagel is not the first defense secretary to urge caution in using military force. In , former Defense Secretary Robert Gates memorably noted that "any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.
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But such views have been more central to Hagel's leadership. His belief in the limits of military action comes at a time when the Pentagon is grappling to adjust to new limits on its own size and budget. Alexa can roll virtual dice for you too — with any number of sides — and she plays a mean game of rock, paper, scissors. Set up traffic and sports updates The Echo setup process prompts you to provide your home address, so Alexa can immediately offer local weather and news reports.
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Hagel: Vietnam War's lessons still echo today
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