CSA at Fort Richardson
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. talks with families and Soldiers of U.S. Army Alaska, during a town hall at Fort Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 14, 2009. Casey addressed current events within the Army and then opened the discussion for questions from the audience of approximately 200.

FORT RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. paid a visit to Soldiers and family members at Fort Richardson Monday, to thank them for their service, wish them happy holidays and hear their concerns.

Casey said his main reason for coming to Alaska was to thank Soldiers and families. "I'm here to thank the Soldiers and families here for their service and their sacrifices and to wish them very happy holidays," Casey said. "The men and women of this Army, like their forebears, are making a difference; not only to their country, but in the world. Their sacrifices and their service is both recognized and appreciated by their citizenry."

His stop in Alaska also reminded him of the state's strategic importance. "Just the fact that I'm stopping here tells you that this is good jumping off point," Casey said. "Whenever I've come up here, I'm always struck by the strategic significance of the location, and, if you add that to the training areas and things that are available up here, [U.S. Army Alaska] is going to be around at this level for a while."

Casey briefed a standing-room-only crowd at the post's education center on the current state of the Army and the way ahead.

Noting an Army budget increase from $80 billion in 2001 to $232 billion in Fiscal Year 2009, Casey outlined the Army's top priorities.

"Since about 2007, I've been saying that the Army is out of balance; that we're so weighed down by our current commitments that we can't do the things we normally need to do to prepare for other things," Casey said.

<b>Restoring balance</b>

To restore balance to the Army's mission, its Soldiers and their families, according to Casey, the Army must boost efforts and target spending to:

Aca,!Ac sustain Soldiers and families;
Aca,!Ac prepare deploying Soldiers for mission success;
Aca,!Ac give Soldiers the time and resources to reset effectively on their return from deployment;
Aca,!Ac continue to transform the Army to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Despite the coming troop increase in Afghanistan, Casey said the Army is better poised today to provide balance to its Soldiers and families than it was a few years ago.

"Because of the growth that we've undertaken in the last few years, since 2007, and because of the drawdown in Iraq," Casey said, "we'll actually be able to meet the new demands in Afghanistan without going to 15-month deployments; without going to less than 12 months at home." Casey also commented on how beginning in 2010, the Army will no longer be using stop loss policy to retain some Soldiers past their planned date of separation.

The Army has grown by 70,000 Soldiers since 2004, with 40,000 of them in the last two years.

Casey noted that, earlier this year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved an increase of 22,000 more Soldiers to the active-duty force.

Regarding Army transformation, Casey said the Army has completed 90 percent of its goal to convert all of its brigades to a modular design, in keeping with the Army's aim to reorganize from a division-based to a modular brigade-based force.

<b>Comprehensive Soldier Fitness</b>

Another key aspect of restoring balance to Soldiers and families, according to Casey, is the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, an initiative to give Soldiers, families and Army civilians the ability to cope with stress.

"The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program is designed to raise mental fitness to the level that we now give to physical fitness," Casey said.

The program, which the Army launched in October, combines online resources, self help and intensive leader training.

Casey urged Soldiers and family members to learn about the program by visiting its website at: http://www.army.mil/csf/.

He highlighted the program's key components:

Aca,!Ac The Global Assessment Tool: which Casey described as "an online survey that the Soldier can take in the privacy of their own home on their own computer. It will give them an assessment of where they stand in the five key areas of fitness: physical, emotional, social, family and spiritual. It will show you a bar graph, and if you have a long bar, you're doing well; if you have a shorter bar, then you need to do some work. It will allow you connect to some online self-help modules; again, so that you can work on things in the privacy of your own home."

Aca,!Ac Resilience training, which will be introduced at every level of leader development training, from basic training to the Army War College, according to Casey.

Aca,!Ac Master resilience trainers: "If you think about master fitness trainers, [master resilience trainers] are the same kind of folks," Casey said. "We've got about 200 of them trained right now, and there's another class going on today. And our goal is to have a master resilience trainer in every battalion in the Army by this time next year."

<b>Year of the NCO</b>

As the Army's Year of the NCO draws to a close, Casey reflected on its significance.

"Over the course of this year, we really have gone to the American people to let them know what a national asset they have in their noncommissioned officers," he said. "Back in September, President Obama himself referred to the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer and to our Warrior Ethos as he was describing the actions of Sergeant First Class Jared Monti, our Medal of Honor winner from Afghanistan, so I feel pretty good about what we've done over the last year for our noncommissioned officers."

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