By Spc. Phillip Adam Turner, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsNovember 20, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas -- 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 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 feels however, 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--not only to heal the physical wounds but the mental and emotional ones as well.
"We are currently developing a more comprehensive fitness program that elevates mental fitness to the same level as physical fitness. The effects of repeated tours is cumulative; they are wounds of war and nothing to be ashamed of," said Casey.
"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," he added.
Casey also took time to speak with the division and brigade Family Readiness Group (FRG) leaders about their concerns in lieu of 'another Cav. deployment.' These military spouses and FRG coordinators shared with Casey the hardships of getting spouses and single soldier's families involved in these Army funded programs at the unit level.
"It was an honor to be a part of that discussion," said Essex Junction Vermont native, Valarie Jackson, the family readiness support advisor (FRSA) for the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
The FRSAs and FRG leaders met with Casey for an hour where they addressed their concerns for reaching out to Gold Star and wounded Soldiers families, as well as getting higher numbers in participation for FRG functions and meetings by offering more incentives for Soldiers who do participate.
"Our concerns were addressed and he truly listened. I could tell he wants to help us become stronger, and that he will do whatever he can to help our Army families," Jackson added.
"My purpose at Fort Hood was to visit the division, three brigades and the family members 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 on mainly troop draw-downs and increased dwell time in the current or distant future.
"For five years we have been building Iraqi Security Forces. We all know you can't build an Army overnight, but the Iraqi Security forces are progressing and advancing," Casey said.
"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 guaranties," he added.
Casey who was the 1st Cavalry Division Chief of Staff (Sept. 1991 - May 1991) and his father Maj. Gen. George W. Casey who was commander of the Division during the Vietnam War (May 1970 - Jul. 1970), takes 'pride' in his family ties to the Cav., and says it is always a pleasure to come back to Fort Hood.
"There is a lot of Casey family history here, and it's always great to be back with the 'First Team,' said Casey. "I continue to be impressed, and I am just amazed at the resiliency and competency of this force and its families."