CONTINGENCY OUTPOST BASE BASRA, Iraq – Gen. George W. Casey Jr., U.S. Army chief of staff, met with leaders of United States Division-South April 28 to discuss operations within the division and the work being done as U.S. Forces transition out of Iraq.
Casey joined Soldiers from various brigades for lunch and then met with Maj. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of 1st Infantry Division and USD-S.
Casey said of the four-hour visit that he was struck by the work accomplished by the 1st Inf. Div.
"The Big Red One always does a magnificent job and my association with the division goes back many, many years," Casey said. "Having been in Iraq for two-and-a-half years, dealing with these provinces, I'm very impressed with the way the division has organized [itself], and the plan that they have to execute the transitions that have been laid out."
During the course of the visit, key leaders informed the general on various aspects of that plan, including overall efforts to train Iraqi security forces, as well as their approach to build more civil capacity in southern Iraq.
"I think they're exactly on the right track and I have every reason to believe that the division's going to be more than successful in accomplishing the mission," Casey said, following a comprehensive briefing.
During the information sessions, Casey was also briefed by commanders of several brigades working in USD-S, including 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division from Fort Bliss, Texas; 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Ga.; and 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division from Fort Carson, Colo.
Brigade commanders discussed their units' evolution into "advise-and-assist" brigades. Casey said this transition is in line with the Army's goal for a responsible drawdown of forces, as well as its modular template.
The Army chief of staff said that the modular formations allow brigade commanders to tailor their units to meet their own unique needs best suited for their area of operation and was a crucial part of the transition from a tactical mission in Iraq to one focused on advising and assisting the ISF.
According to Casey, the Army has converted 90 percent of its 300 brigades to modular formations, explaining that these formations are much more versatile than past models.
"There's not a cookie cutter solution; there's a general design," he said. "Each of the brigade commanders have taken the resources that we've given them and applied them in their areas. I think, again, it's just a demonstration of the versatility of the organization of our modular formations."
Casey talked about newer efforts being put forth to ease the stress that deployed Soldiers face today. According to Casey, 500,000 Soldiers have already taken the Global Assessment – a tool to help Soldiers identify where they rate within a five-pillar wellness concept that includes: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and family support.
"The comprehensive fitness program is designed to bring mental fitness up to the same level that we give to physical fitness," he said. "It's intended to give all of the Soldiers the skills they need to be better Soldiers and to be more resilient and to deal with challenges. I'm very pleased with the progress that we've made."
Acting on the resiliency concept, Brooks plans to open a resiliency campus on COB Basra in August.
In October 2009, the Army began training Master Resilience Trainers to help Soldiers facing deployments.
"The most powerful part of the program is the Master Resilience Trainers," Casey said. "Those trainers are designed to bring the skills down to platoon level – and that's where this works best. It's just something we've got to ingrain into our culture because we're going to be deploying at a pretty steady tempo for the next 10 years."
Casey said the progress he sees in Iraq — whether it's better infrastructure and services for the Iraqi people, or taking care of Soldiers on the ground — is the evolution of a plan first set in motion in 2005.
"We've grown the Iraqi security forces to a level where they are taking control of their own country and that's exactly what we set out to do five years ago," he said. "So I couldn't be prouder of what all the men and women of the Army have done and have contributed here in Iraq. We're in a much different place today than we were five years ago – it's a much more positive place."