<i> Transcript from an interview with Army Chief of Staff GEN George W. Case Jr. and his wife, Sheila Casey on August 3, 2007.</i>
SFC Jason Shepherd: Thanks for coming out here today, sir, ma'am.
GEN George W. Casey Jr.: Great Sgt. Shepherd, nice to be with you.
SFC Shepherd: Thank you, what are some of the concerns you have when you talk to families about deployments'
GEN Casey: Why don't you take that first'
Sheila Casey: Well, my biggest concern is basically how they're doing. I mean deployments for five years, have, you know, taken its toll and so we're very concerned how the families are doing, especially the children.
GEN Casey: I'd just say that the three or four big things we get all the time are standardized services. Folks want to see the programs we have funded are standardized across the Army. Second major thing we hear all the time is access to care and particularly for mental health care and counseling for family members. The third thing is education. Folks want to make sure that their children have the opportunity to have the best education available and that their teachers are made aware of the pressures on military children of having parents that are deployed frequently. And lastly, housing, but I'll tell you this RCI housing that we have going up across the Army is making a huge impact and what's here in Hawaii is a great example of that.
SFC Shepherd: This one's for you, ma'am. Why is family readiness so critical'
Sheila Casey: Because with the deployments, if the families do not have everything they need and if they are not equipped to do everything they need to do with their service member deployed, that's a whole new anxiety level that's brought to the Soldiers out in the field. So it's particularly important that we do everything we can to make Families ready.
GEN Casey: As Sheila said, what we're seeing as we're going around is the impact, the cumulative impact of repeated deployments on Families and on Soldiers. A spouse in Fort Bragg told us, she said, 'General, it's not the same running a family readiness group the third deployment as it was for the first. There are cumulative stress and strains.' So we have to do progressively more so that our Families and Soldiers are well taken care of.
SFC Shepherd: So, why do you feel, sir, that having Family Readiness Support Assistants down to the battalion level will help Families with deployments'
GEN Casey: As I just said, the deployments and the readiness group support for deployments gets progressively harder and one of the things we got at every place we went was, give us somebody to take some of the administrative load off of the Family Readiness group leaders.
Sheila Casey: The administrative burden on these volunteers was really astronomical and you know doing this has, I mean, the feedback that we get from the Family Readiness Group leaders is just what a tremendous help this has been to them and to the Rear Detachment Commanders as well.
GEN Casey: We'll put about a thousand fully-funded Family Readiness Group assistants out here in the next (couple of) months... about 700 of those into the Active Component and the rest into the Reserve Component. And the Reserve Component assistants will grow over time as more and more units hit the deployment window; and this is something we're going to sustain.
SFC Shepherd: What are some of the programs that the $100 million dollars could be able to support'
GEN Casey: Well actually, we're here at the child development center and we're actually seeing some of that. About $20 million dollars of the $100 million is going toward child care in one form or another. I just asked (the CDC) if they'd seen the impact of the $100 million dollars here and they say they have. They have already received money for extended hours and for Family programs and for what did they call it'
Sheila Casey: Additional free care.
GEN Casey: Additional free care, nights off, those kinds of things, so that's helping. The other thing is youth services and we've expanded youth services and things like morale and welfare expansions so there's availability of fun things to do as well as funding the basic services but between the Family Readiness Group assistants and the $100 million dollars just for this year, the intent is to signal to everybody that, 'hey, we heard you and we're listening.' And over the program, the five-year program they put out, over $4 billion dollars in that program for Family support and we're going to ensure that we resource family programs at the levels its going to take to help our families and our Soldiers who are pushed by the cumulative stresses of these repeated deployments.
SFC Shepherd: If you had all the family members of all those who are deployed right now in one place, what would you tell them'
Sheila Casey: I would tell them, you know George and I were separated for 32 months, we understand, you know, we got it. And we are listening and we're hearing and we're doing everything that we can to help make their lives easier and basically easiest to say, help's on the way.
GEN Casey: Yeah, and I would second that. I would also say that what's at stake for our country is so important that the commitment of these Soldiers and these Families at this time in our Nation's history is absolutely critical to preserving our way of life because that's what's under attack by this global network of Islamic extremists, our way of life. And we, the Army and our Soldiers and Families, are in the lead in protecting our country from this threat.
END of Interview.