By Spc. Phillip Adam TurnerNovember 20, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas (Army News Service, Nov. 20, 2008) -- Stabilization, family readiness, dwell time, veteran and wounded warrior care and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- these are the topics Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. discussed during his visit to Fort Hood while meeting with the Soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division, Nov. 17.
With his visit falling on "Warrior Care Day," Casey's focus was on addressing the current and future care given to wounded Soldiers with an emphasis on better mental health options.
"Visiting the wounded warriors at the Center for the Intrepid here, and seeing the commitment and the drive they have to bring their lives back to a new normal is phenomenal," Casey said. "You can't be around those Soldiers and not come away feeling good about the Army; and very good about the younger generation in this country.
"We're going to be okay," he added.
Casey said that even with the advances that have been made, and the resiliency of those within the wounded warrior system, that Soldiers and their families need more assistance -- to heal the physical wounds as well as the mental and emotional ones.
"We are currently developing a more comprehensive fitness program that elevates mental fitness to the same level as physical fitness," said Casey. "The effects of repeated tours is cumulative; they are wounds of war and nothing to be ashamed of.
"But we still have work to do on the disability system. I think it's going to take some legislative changes to make that happen, and we are committed to working with the Veteran's Administration and the Department of Defense to make this happen," the general added.
Casey also took time to speak with the division and brigade Family Readiness Group leaders about their concerns regarding another Cav. deployment. Military spouses and FRG coordinators shared with Casey the hardships of getting spouses, Soldiers and families involved in unit-level Army funded programs.
"It was an honor to be a part of that discussion," said Valarie Jackson, the family readiness support advisor for the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
During an hour-long meeting with Casey, FRSAs and FRG leaders were able to address their concerns about reaching out to Gold Star families and the families of wounded Soldiers. Participants also discussed how to get higher participation numbers for FRG functions and meetings by offering more incentives for Soldiers who do participate.
"Our concerns were addressed and he truly listened," Jackson said. "I could tell he wants to help us become stronger, and that he will do whatever he can to help our Army families."
"My purpose at Fort Hood was to visit the division, three brigades and the family members of those who are going back to Iraq after being gone for 15 months and are now going back for 12. That is tough and we recognize that," Casey said.
Casey would end his visit to the Cav. by conducting a press conference with the local media, and answering their questions that focused mainly on troop draw-downs and increased dwell time in the current or distant future.
"For five years we have been building Iraqi Security Forces," Casey said. "We all know you can't build an Army overnight, but the Iraqi Security forces are progressing and advancing.
"Having a mark on the wall is not necessarily a bad thing, and I think any reasonable government would adjust [to a troop draw down]. It is something we have been working towards since we got in this. But, when you are talking about the future, you never make guarantees," he added.
(Spc. Phillip Adam Turner writes for 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)