Army Chief of Staff visits Fort Wainwright
December 21, 2010
- Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey and Sheila Casey visit Fort Wainwright, Alaska, town hall meeting
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and his wife Sheila paid a holiday visit to troops in the heart of the Last Frontier.
Gen. and Mrs. Casey visited Soldiers, family members and leaders from the Fort Wainwright and Fairbanks communities Dec. 19-20, thanking them for their service, wishing them happy holidays and listening to their concerns.
The general started his day early Monday with a visit to the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade to speak with members of Task Force Denali who last week began returning from humanitarian flood relief efforts in Pakistan.
"It's very important the Pakistani people see the United States as a country that wants to help them and wants to help them advance," Casey said. "What those great Soldiers did was to help foster that feeling in the people they came in contact every day. They are very, very proud of what they did and rightfully so."
His message to those troops still en route, Casey said, is "hurry up. It would be nice to have everybody home for Christmas."
The Department of Defense recently announced that 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division will deploy to Afghanistan in May. Gen. Casey addressed the subject of dwell-time for Soldiers between deployments.
"We've put ourselves in a position so we can increase time Soldiers spend at home. Given the draw down in Iraq and given the growth of the Army that we've already accomplished, Soldiers deploying this time next year can go with the expectation of two years at home." Casey said, "Studies tell us it takes two-to-three years to recover from a one-year combat assignment. We have not had that for five years, but we will get there."
The Caseys' visit came at a time of 30-below temperatures and about two hours of daily sunlight. "George assured we'd go somewhere at Christmas time that had snow," Sheila Casey said. "I think it's important to see and go to places that do not get a lot of traffic. When everybody here is doing important work and living their lives in conditions like this, it's important for them to know people are thinking about them and they are appreciated."
Gen. Casey stressed the importance of the United States Army Alaska mission. "The central design feature for the Army has got to be versatility and our versatility is only enhanced when they are operating in different climates," he said, "so what goes on here and at the Northern Warfare Training Center is hugely important and we know if we need to send someone to a cold place, we have well-trained Soldiers."
The general also spoke about the Army Family Covenant and assured Soldiers and families that these programs will not be affected by budget cuts. "We will keep family and support services at the same level we've resourced for the next several years because that's important," Casey said.
Casey assured Soldiers that they will continue to receive non-chargeable rest and recuperation leave while on deployments. "When I was the commander in Iraq in late 2006 I wrote a letter to the Chief of Staff of the Army requesting non-chargeable leave for Soldiers and at the time I didn't know I was writing the letter to myself," he said. "I was very pleased to get that through and I don't see it changing any time in the near term."
Sheila Casey thanked military spouses and families for what they do every day, and what they sacrifice. "I think it's important for spouses to take care of themselves. So often as caregivers we put ourselves at the bottom of the pile," she said, "It's important to reverse that and put themselves on top of the list so they have the wherewithal to take care of their families and anything else that comes up. It's not a selfish act, its survival."
Gen. Casey said both he and Sheila couldn't be prouder of the Army's accomplishments over the last year :"I think the men and women, the Arctic Warriors up here, need to understand the leadership of the Army and the American people are hugely proud of what they've done for this country. Sheila and I wish you all the best of luck, a very Merry Christmas and a great New Year."