FORT RILEY, Kan. -- More than 10 Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army from across the Southwestern and Central U.S. visited Fort Riley Nov. 15 and 16 as part of their conference.

In attendance with them was Gerald O'Keefe, administrative assistant to the Secretary of the Army, who also administrates and handles the CASA program on behalf of the Secretary of the Army.

"This is the Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army Conference and we have about 100 civilian aides across the United States who support the Secretary of the Army," O'Keefe said. "These regional conferences are essentially training sessions for them.

One of the primary missions for the civilian aides is to represent the Secretary of the Army in local communities surrounding installations and to be an interface between the installation and the community. In order for them to effectively be able to do that, the civilian aides need a good understanding of the Army."

The CASA office holds two to three conferences throughout the year and vary the location of each one, he said. The visit to Fort Riley was arranged by two Kansas CASAs, John Montgomery and Mark Edwards, who live within the communities surrounding Fort Riley.

"We, for a long time, have wanted to show Fort Riley off to our fellow civilian aides, so this was a great opportunity and, of course, this was tied to the Irwin Army (Community Hospital) and VA signing and (Maj.) Gen. (Joseph M.) Martin (1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general) being back and his experience in Mosul; it was a good opportunity," Montgomery said.

Montgomery said he and Edwards wanted the other CASAs to see Fort Riley because of how impressed with it they are.

"I think that Fort Riley is maybe a well-kept secret, we don't want it to be that," he said. "We're very proud of Fort Riley and all it has to offer and show. I enjoy, as a Civilian Aide from Kansas, going to other installations and see what they have, so this is an opportunity for us to show those in the Southwest what we have."

During their visit, the group met with Martin for a briefing on what the 1st Infantry Division is doing around the world, as well as touring several different facilities on post, observed the Warfighter field training exercise, reviewed some unmanned aerial systems and had lunch with Soldiers from their respective states at Devil's Den Dining Facility.

O'Keefe said these tours and experiences were important to the CASAs to help them better understand the Army and the intent of the Secretary of the Army.

"The Army is such a big institution, it's one of the biggest organizations in the world and we do so many different things, both in the operational Army and in the institutional Army. It's important to expose the Civilian Aides to what the Army does, to what Soldiers do, so they can see it first hand and better represent that for the Secretary of the Army," he said. "They're gaining an understanding about building readiness from one of Army's premier divisions. They've already spent quite a bit of time with the division commander, Gen. Martin, and he's explained the opportunities and challenges that face the Big Red One and its Soldiers and leaders."

He added the lunch with the Soldiers was about more than communicating with them, it was also about showing the CASAs what sort of people the Army is looking for because they can be enablers to the Army's recruiting mission through their roles as influential individuals in their communities.

"The other things Civilian Aides typically do is to assist U.S. Army Recruiting Command because no matter where the Civilian Aide is are Army recruits there" O'Keefe said.
"Spending time with Soldiers, young Soldiers, just like they did at lunch, gives them an understanding of the type young men and women we're looking for."

For the CASAs, their time at Fort Riley and with the Big Red One taught them more about the Army's oldest division and some of the training capabilities available to Soldiers today. Montgomery said he and Edwards were glad this was an experience they could share with their fellow CASAs.