CSA in Baghdad
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CSA in Iraq
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BAGHDAD (Dec. 23, 2008) - Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. told troops in Baghdad just before Christmas that their efforts have brought "heartening" progress in Iraq that will allow the Army to throw more of its "weight" toward Afghanistan.

Casey visited Baghdad last week during a multi-country, week-long tour which included South Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, and Kuwait, so he could "look as many of our men and women in the eye and thank them for what they are doing and for the sacrifices they and their families are making around the holiday season," he told a group of Soldiers.

While touring Victory Base, the 36th Army chief of staff administered the oath of re-enlistment to several groups of Soldiers, awarded four Soldiers for superior service, reflected on memorable moments and choices during his own career, and spoke about the Army's current focus as well as its future.

"I've seen huge progress here in Iraq since June of 2004 when I first came. It's heartening to see the progress," Casey said. He reminded Soldiers it was because of their hard work current gains in Iraq and future gains in Afghanistan were possible, and the Army's continued transformation would continue to be key.

"You are the best Army in the world, and the best I have served with in my whole Army career," he told Soldiers.

"I am impressed with how well the Army has adapted since 9/11. It is amazing the differences it is making in the world, and what I see coming out of all of this conflict is a much more seasoned combat force." He also noted that positive changes included better equipment, such as the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles staged behind the crowd of Soldiers. "I feel safer just looking at these things," he joked with troops.

Responding to questions from troops about "dwell time" - amount of time a Soldier or unit remains at home station between deployments - Casey said plans for the future looked at extending dwell times for both active-duty Army and reserve-component units, since the current operational tempo was a strain on Soldiers and their families.

"While this is the most resilient, professional, combat-seasoned force I have been associated with in 38 years of my own service, we're stretched. We can't continue at this rate and still sustain the all-volunteer force. We don't have enough time at home to prepare for other things," he said.

The answer to that, Casey said, is based on "Four Imperatives" put in place last year, designed to put the Army back in balance by fiscal year 2011.

"The imperatives are: sustain Soldiers and families, continue to prepare Soldiers for success in the current conflict, reset them and their equipment appropriately when they return, and continue to transform for an uncertain future."

"We've made great progress on all of those things [imperatives] in the last year," Casey said, especially in recruiting, despite the current war, adding that the president's directive to add 74,000 Soldiers by 2012 would be accomplished by 2009 at the current pace.

"What that means is that if we hold the demand for our forces relatively steady, we'll spend more time at home between missions. By 2011, we get almost 24 months between deployments", he said. "When we do that, we'll be in a much better position to sustain our Soldiers and families and to prepare for other things."

Taking time to shake each hand and wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Casey reminded the Soldiers they were part of a team that will win both Iraq and Afghanistan, and both he and the citizens of the United States were grateful for all the sacrifices the Soldiers were making.

(Staff Sgt. Gabriel Morse serves with the American Forces Network-Iraq.)