News: Army Chief of Staff visits deployed troops
Story by Staff Sgt. Gabriel Morse
By Staff Sgt. Gabriel Morse
Armed Forces Network - Iraq
BAGHDAD – "You are the best Army in the world, and the best I have served with in my whole Army career", stated Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey Jr., while speaking to troops during a quick visit to Iraq just before Christmas. Casey visited Baghdad during a multi-country, week-long tour, which included South Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, and Kuwait, so he could "look as many of our men and women in the eye and thank them for what they are doing and for the sacrifices they and their families are making around the holiday season", he told a group of Soldiers.
While touring Victory Base, the 36th Army Chief of Staff administered the oath of re-enlistment to several groups of Soldiers, awarded four Soldiers for superior service, reflected on memorable moments and choices during his own career, and spoke about the Army's current focus as well as its future.
"I've seen huge progress here in Iraq since June of 2004 when I first came. It's heartening to see the progress," Casey stated, adding that this progress would allow the Army to throw more of its "weight toward Afghanistan". He reminded Soldiers it was because of their hard work current gains in Iraq and future gains in Afghanistan were possible, and the Army's continued transformation would continue to be key.
"I am impressed with how well the Army has adapted since 9/11. It is amazing the differences it is making in the world, and what I see coming out of all of this conflict is a much more seasoned combat force." He also noted that positive changes included better equipment, such as the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles staged behind the crowd of Soldiers. "I feel safer just looking at these things," he joked with troops.
Responding to questions from troops about "dwell time" – amount of time a Soldier or unit remains at home station between deployments - Casey stated plans for the future looked at extending dwell times for both active-duty Army and Army National Guard units, since the current operational tempo was a strain on Soldiers and their families.
"While this is the most resilient, professional, combat seasoned force I have been associated with in 38 years of my own service, we're stretched. We can't continue at this rate and still sustain the all volunteer force. We don't have enough time at home to prepare for other things," he said.
According to Casey, the answer to that is based on "Four Imperatives" put in place last year, designed to put the Army back in balance by fiscal year 2011. According to Casey, "The imperatives are; sustain Soldiers and families, continue to prepare Soldiers for success in the current conflict, reset them and their equipment appropriately when they return, and continue to transform for an uncertain future."
"We've made great progress on all of those things [imperatives] in the last year," Casey said, especially in recruiting despite the current war, adding that the president's directive to add 74,000 Soldiers by 2012 would be accomplished by 2009 at the current pace. "What that means is that if we hold the demand for our forces relatively steady, we'll spend more time at home between missions. By 2011, we get almost 24 months between deployments", he said. "When we do that, we'll be in a much better position to sustain our Soldiers and families and to prepare for other things."
Taking time to shake each hand and wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Casey reminded the Soldiers they were part of a team that will win both Iraq and Afghanistan, and both he and the citizens of the United States were grateful for all the sacrifices the Soldiers were making.