ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Fifteen Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army visited the Quad Cities and Rock Island Arsenal for the first Central Region Conference, Aug. 11 - 12. The CASAs came to gain insight into the strategic and economic significance of the region to the U.S. Army's mission.
CASAs are community leaders throughout the country who communicate with and gather information from all levels of the Army. They report directly to the Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
"The overriding theme is to promote the Army and to get the Army message out to constituents where they live," said retired Rear Adm. Sam Kupresin, CASA for West Illinois.
Kupresin said he advocated for the conference to come to RIA as he wanted the CASAs to see RIA's contribution to the Army.
"I felt this was a good way to highlight the great heritage and contribution of the Rock Island Arsenal as a base and how all of the subordinate commands on that base contribute to the total Army picture and to national defense," said Kupresin.
He added that he thinks it is important for CASAs to see more of a civilian angle on the Army mission, so RIA was a good choice.
"A lot of people have heard of [RIA], but because it's more civilian-oriented than uniform-oriented in proportion to the workers on the island, I thought it was important to get the CASA conference here so more people can understand the mission and what happens on [RIA]," said Kupresin.
The primary topics of discussion for the first meeting focused on the need to spread the Army's message, the downsizing of an engaged Army, and the difficulties that sequestration poses to the Army mission.
Gerald O'Keefe, administrative assistant to the Secretary of the Army, also visited RIA to meet with the CASAs. O'Keefe led the discussion and provided top-level insight into the Army's current direction.
"The Army's in a bit of a time of transition where we are downsizing the Army significantly," he said. "[The CASAs] have to understand the Army's strategic direction and kind of what that entails so they can bring that back to their local communities."
Brig. Gen. Stephen Farmen, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Sustainment Command, said that the CASAs' visit is beneficial for RIA. Farmen is also the commanding general of the U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command, and the U.S. Army Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command.
"The CASAs are great; they bring so much experience. There's a lot of strength and power that can come from leveraging our CASAs in the right way," Farmen said. "And the fact that we can have the ability to host this many CASAs in our location is obviously good for Rock Island because it gives us an opportunity to tell our story, and it connects us to more of the CASA network.
"Our Joint Munitions Command, ASC, and all the other commands on the island touch a lot of the states these CASAs reside in, so when we have these (command) presentations they'll see that, and then as they go out and do their key leader presentations, it will make things much better," Farmen said.
On day one, the CASAs visited the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa, to start the event. While there, CASA members and RIA leadership had lunch, viewed a screening of D-Day: Normandy 1944 in the museum's giant screen theater, and visited the RIA military history exhibit.
During the morning events, George Eaton, ASC historian, spoke about RIA's extensive and proud history as a military installation.
Eaton also led separate tours of the Arsenal of Innovation exhibit for the CASAs and their spouses. Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Lima, CASA for Wisconsin, said he enjoyed the history.
"I found it very, very interesting, and you are talking to someone who spent 40 years in uniform," said Lima. "Much of what was talked about I found very informative and interesting ?- to see the innovations that were occurring back in the 1800s and how far ahead the Army was on the power curve."
On the second day, the CASAs toured RIA where they visited the Joint Munitions and Technology Center, and the Lock and Dam No. 15 Visitor Center. They held briefings with all the commands on the island including ASC, JMC, JMTC, Army Contracting Command, Army Corps of Engineers and First U.S. Army for organizational updates.
The CASAs also had a private videoconference with McHugh.
The CASAs met at the Hotel Blackhawk in Davenport for dinner for the conclusion of the event. William "Bill" Aldracht, Vietnam War veteran and triple recipient of the Silver Star, was the keynote speaker.
The other CASAs who attended were: J. Daniel McGowan - Iowa, Michael Ayers - Illinois South, John Scully - Illinois North, Robert Spanogle - Indiana, Jerry Cecil - Kentucky North, Charles Henderson - Kentucky West, Bruce MacDonald - Michigan, Tracy Beckette - Missouri East, Keith Pritchard - Missouri West, Larry Sexton - Missouri Central, Robert Arter - Kansas East, Ethan Epstein - New Mexico, and Randy Groth - Arizona.