BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (December 22, 2008) – George Casey, Chief of Staff of the Army, continued his trip around the world this holiday season stopping on Bagram, Dec. 20, to spend some time with the troops and discuss current and future plans for the Army.
“I visited our Soldiers in Korea and Japan, and now here in Afghanistan, and it is just remarkable the difference our Soldiers make in countries all around the world,” said Casey.
Casey also visited two surrounding bases, Forward Operating Base Shank and FOB Airborne.
“What I am trying to do is go out, talk to them, and let them know what a magnificent job they are doing and what a difference they are making during a very, very difficult time for our country,” Casey said.
“This was a great visit with the Soldiers here, and they are just doing magnificent things in a very difficult and complex environment.” he added. “I got to reenlist a Soldier today, Spc. Sullivan, who 6 weeks ago became an American citizen. And that was a very great thing for me to be able to do.”
Spc. Diana A. Sullivan is currently a human resource specialist deployed with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. She also, on Nov. 11, received her U.S. Citizenship.
During his lunch with the troops at Shank, Gen. Casey discussed ideas on helping the Army’s growth and stability or what he called “balancing the force.”
There’s been great progress over the last year in putting ourselves back in balance.A campaign started in 2007 that centred on four imperatives: One, sustaining our Soldiers and their families. Two, continue preparing Soldiers for success in the current conflict. Three, to continue to reset them affectively when they return. Four, to continue to transform for an uncertain future. There’s been great progress in all those areas in 2008 and Casey expects that progress to continue in 2009.
“I think the most striking progress that we have made is with support to our families,” he said. “In 2007 we issued an Army Family Covenant and have doubled the money we have put forward for Soldiers and family programs, and in 2009, I think we can see our families and Soldiers expect to see us redouble our efforts to implement that family covenant.”
Casey backed his “balancing the force” plans with knowledge of how the growth of the military has moved forward and is helping to achieve goals that were originally planned for 2012.
“The other striking thing that’s happening, we will most likely complete our [estimated] growth next year,” said Casey. “You might remember that we were originally growing by 75,000, and that [growth expectancy] was going to be completed in 2012, but with the secretary of defense’s support , we were able to move that to 2010, and now we will achieve our goals in the next year.”
“It is pretty amazing to me that last year 290,000 men and women enlisted or reenlisted into the Army, Army Guard and Reserve, and that says an awful lot about the quality of people we are getting in the Army today,” he added.
Casey also hit on subjects like the importance of mental and physical health of Soldiers in and out of theatre, and the current progress that has been building over the recent months.
“The demands of combat over the past seven-plus years are tearing on our force and I am seeing the cumulative effects of combat on the men and women of the Army and that is nothing to be ashamed of; it is a cost of war,” Casey said.
“What we recognize is, we need to raise mental health and mental fitness to go right along with physical fitness, and that is what the Comprehensive Physical Fitness program is all about,” Casey said. “[CPF] will focus on education and not just on what to do after you have identified a problem, but how to build resilience; so it is going to focus on the positive aspects of mental filled fitness and building resilience and strengths to more effectively operate in combat.”
“All our research tells us that the earlier [a problems] is identified, the sooner treatment is sought, and the faster you recover,” said Casey. “[CPF] will also look at intervention and finding treatment, but as I said, it is important for us to realize the mental health issues that come from combat are realities of war and we need to treat them as realities of war. We need to identify and get treatment for these Soldiers as rapidly as possible. “
As a result of this idea, the month of November was set aside as Warrior Care Month, to focus everyone on what is being done in areas of warrior care.
It is important for people to realize that warrior care isn’t just what happens after you are injured, and it is not just about the recovery, but also about how to help prevent warrior stress, said Casey.
“We have made huge strides at everything from Combat Life Saver training in basic training for every Soldier going through, and also improving what we are putting into the first-aid kits to allow that Combat Life Saver training Soldier to provide the best possible buddy aid. To the medevac helicopters that are available in theatres to bring our Soldiers back to world class treatment facilities,” he said. “That is what warrior care is about, [and] the whole system has brought the survivability rate to levels that are just unheard of in combat.”
One of the most important elements of getting ourselves back in balance and continuing this progress is increasing the time our soldiers are at home between operations, he said.
“It is not just spending time with family, which is very important, but the longer you have home, the longer you have time to also begin training and preparing for other things other than regular warfare,” he said.” If you hold demand steady about where it is now, and you grow as we are growing, what happens is over time you gradually increase that availability so people don’t have to [deploy] as often.”
“This is the training guidance that I have given to the Army: if you are home 18 months or less stay focused on regular warfare; 18 months or more [they can] take about 90 days and focus on major conventional operations so that they can rekindle in conventional war fighting skills,” said Casey.
In reference to this training during longer dwell times, Casey has rolled out with a new Army regulation, 7-0, in accordance with a February 2008 publication of the first capstone doctrine since Sept. 11, 2001.
“[AR 7-0]] is intended to drive a training revolution,” said Casey “We are building an Army that will operate on a rotational cycle, and that will require us to train leaders and train units fundamentally different than we have in the past ,[and] this manual is designed to get us thinking in that direction.”
With all this, what is trying to be done is create better training and flexibility in the Army, said Casey. Casey also offered words of praise for the Soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
“Sometimes you get out here and you get caught up in the little details of building up a base, or whatever you are doing, and you look at yourself and say, ‘Well, I wonder if I am making any difference ?’, and the answer is you are making a huge difference,” said Casey.
“From when I first came in 2003 till now, the hustle and bustle of the Soldiers is phenomenal,” he said. “This is a long term proposition there is no doubt about it, and I will tell you, everyone is leaning forward to meet [the] requirements.”
“I think with the change in direction of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, it is going to help meet the requirements [needed] in Afghanistan without adding to the burden that is already on the force,” said Casey. “There is also a huge support in the American public for the men and women of the Army, and as a result of that, there is a resolve in them that they might be against the war, but they cannot be against the people of the armed forces.”
“The people that have chose to fight for this country, and you see it everywhere you go, are doing a wonderful job out here,” Casey said. “We see it; the tide is going to shift a little as we start to move more forces [to Afghanistan], and you’ll see things change.”
“I would just like to thank the men and women of the United States Army that are here in Afghanistan for their service and there sacrifice and I wish them and their families’ very happy holidays and a new year,” said Casey.