In his last appearance as Army chief of staff before an AUSA Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast Jan. 5 in northern Virginia, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., told a capacity audience: “When I look at where we are now and where we are headed, we [the Army] have made huge progress in reaching the goals we set since 2004.”
Adding, “We are starting to get healthy again. … Fundamentally, it is a different Army from [the Army] in 2004.”
From July 2004 to February 2007, Casey commanded the Multi-National Force -- Iraq before becoming the Army’s 36th chief of staff in April 2007.
Returning from an “around the world” holiday tour where he visited soldiers, civilians and families in Germany, Korea, Japan and Alaska, as well as troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, Casey said, “Everywhere I went I saw soldiers and families committed to the mission.”
In an era of what Casey terms “persistent conflict,” where for the first time in history an all-volunteer force has been engaged in war – its longest struggle --approaching 10 years in length, but, because of the progress made over the past several years, he said, “We have held the all-volunteer force together. … Now we will be able to put the Army on a sustainable deployment tempo.”
The Army’s goal is two years at home for a year deployed for the active force and one year at home for four years deployed for the guard and reserve.
This new ratio of dwell-to-deployment is due to “closing in on the 22,000 soldier growth authorized during the Bush administration,” and the drawdown of the force in Iraq.
Notwithstanding the progress being made in Iraq and Afghanistan, Casey told the audience that “the war is not over.”
He said, “We are in a long-term ideological struggle against an enemy that attacked us on our own soil and we have to be prepared.”
As the nation looks at an “unpredictable future,” the Army must, according to one of Casey’s goals, “continue to build a combat edge while reconstituting the force for the long haul.”
Facing the realities of the times, Casey said, “All this must be done in an era of declining resources. And, this is not something new.”
Because of the declining resources, Casey said maintaining the combat edge will be the Army’s greatest challenge in the next three to five years.
The Army must also continue to reconstitute the force by resetting its equipment that has taken a toll from combat losses and excessive wear from combat deployments.
Casey also said the Army “must build resiliency by dealing with the cumulative effect of a decade of war through the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program.”
In answer to a question from the floor from an industry member as to the employment of wounded warriors and their families, Casey said that “industry is doing well in that area.”
He also encouraged industry representatives that if they need additional information on access to wounded warriors to hire more of these soldiers, they should contact the Army G-1 [deputy chief of staff for personnel] to facilitate the process.
“The biggest concern for wounded warriors,” Casey said, “is that they need long-term care and a fulfilling job.”
During the breakfast also recognized Sgt. Maj. Of the Army Ken Preston, who was in attendance.
Casey said, “Sergeant Major of the Army Ken Preston is the Army’s longest serving sergeant major of the Army. He is the primary reason the NCO Corps is what it is today.”
Preston received a standing ovation from the 300 attendees.
Casey also mentioned hs tour of Fort Leonard Wood that was ravaged by a tornado Dec. 31.
“The path of the tornado, Casey said, “went right through the [family] housing area. It had a great impact on our families, but they are doing a magnificent job pulling things back together.”
He credited the “resiliency” of the Army family for this example of strength under adversity.