Army Secretary and Chief of Staff reassure Soldiers, families
November 1, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The Army's top military officer said Friday that there was no unit more capable of ensuring a successful U.S. withdrawal from Iraq than the Fort Bragg-based XVIII Airborne Corps.
General George W. Casey, Jr., chief of staff of the Army, who traveled with Army Secretary John M. McHugh, visited the Fort Bragg community, making the post the center of the Army for a few hours on Friday. The service's top civilian leader and military officer arrived at the post just hours after one of its other senior leaders, Forces Command commander Gen. James D. Thurman departed.
McHugh and Casey landed at Pope Air Force Base's Silver ramp at about 10 a.m., visiting separate locations on post initially, then joining together for events in the afternoon.
"I'm very impressed and I can think of no organization better qualified to turn off the lights in Iraq than the XVIII Airborne Corps," Casey said, following an After Action Review for the corps' mission rehearsal exercise, which ended today.
McHugh met with Soldiers and leaders of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. He then traveled to JFK Plaza, where he had the opportunity to see a Faces of Special Operations Forces demonstration, which took on the topics of Afghanistan Village Stability and Pakistan Operations.
McHugh acknowledged the post's growth and pointed out how important Fort Bragg is to the Army.
"It's an important post with a lot of activity," he said during a press conference Friday afternoon. "You're going to have a lot of new residents here with Forces Command coming down and you can tell, just by driving through the post and seeing the construction, that it's an extremely important place in our Army ... and it's going to be for a long, long time to come."
Casey's first stop during his visit to Fort Bragg was to the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, where he met with Maj. Gen. James Huggins, division commander, and Col. Timothy McAteer, 2nd BCT's commander.
While there, Casey participated in a promotion and awards presentation with brigade paratroopers. He also held a global response force briefing and roundtable discussion with the unit's battalion commanders and command sergeants major.
"I promoted five great, young (specialists) to sergeants," he said. "I had the privilege of welcoming new noncommissioned officers into the Army. Then I was able to present a retirement award to a sergeant major for 22 years of service. He was the epitome of what we want our noncommissioned officers to be, and if I look that good when I retire, I'm in great shape."
Casey also presented coins to members of the division's sniper team, two of whom finished sixth in the International Sniper contest, which took place at Fort Benning, Ga. earlier this month. He also presented coins to the Soldiers who took first place in the Army's Connelly culinary arts competition.
Once he depart the division area, Casey traveled to the site of the Forces Command (FORSCOM) headquarters, where he met with Fort Bragg Garrison commander, Col. Stephen Sicinski, FORSCOM-forward officer-in-charge, Ronna Garrett and Ted Kientz, FORSCOM's liaison officer.
In the afternoon, Casey and McHugh traveled to the Joint Warfighting Forces Center where they observed the XVIII Airborne Corps Headquaters Mission Rehearsal Exercise after-action review. Following the AAR, they met with local media members and fielded questions including those about the recent findings concerning the 10 unexplained infant deaths that occurred on the post since 2007.
McHugh said he remains confident about the safety of military housing and was satisfied at the level of testing conducted in the case. Casey added that he has heard of no other incidents at any other installation.
McHugh thanked the community and local leaders for their support of Fort Bragg and its Soldiers.
"I personally want the thank the folks here and in Fayetteville and the folks who work so hard to support our troops each and every day and their Families as well as the congressional delegation that I've had the opportunity to serve with, many of them for many, many years and all they do for our Army," McHugh said.