WASHINGTON — As one of the largest countries in the world, with one of the largest armed forces in the world, it is merely impossible for one person to be everywhere at once. For the Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth, the ability to hear about the successes and challenges the Army faces in communities worldwide would be extremely challenging without the Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army.
For 100 years, the CASAs have served as Army’s ambassadors in communities around the U.S. and its territories, providing critical connections to build partnerships and enhance relationships.
“The CASA program is unique. It is the only branch of service that have this volunteer outreach program,” said actor Sean Astin, who served from 1995 to 2005 as a CASA member. “The fact that it has existed for 100 years kind of boggles the mind. I feel a strong sense of commitment to the Army when I look at what’s going on in the country and around the world. I realize no matter what anybody thinks or feels about American cultural life, we absolutely need a first-in-the-world military.”
Recently, Wormuth signed the proclamation that recognized Nov. 28, 2022, as the 100th anniversary of the CASA program, which can trace part of its origin to 1916 as the Military Training Camps Association during World War I. Their primary mission was to train citizens who could be called to active duty in the event of a war.
“For the past century, CASAs have served as force multipliers and true ambassadors of our Army in their communities,” said Wormuth. “No other service benefits from such a prestigious program.”
In November 1922, the MTCA was recognized for its positive effect in preparing officers for war and its ability to foster voluntary military service. In 1950, the program was reforged to promote better relations between the Army and civilian communities. In 1953, the MTCA became part of the Office of the Secretary of the Army and was redesignated as the CASA program.
Today, CASAs are business leaders, community leaders and force multipliers appointed by the Secretary to advise and support Army leaders in each state, D.C. and the five U.S. territories.
“CASAs have an access door to their community leaders, which allows them to give a bird’s eye view of the Army to their community and describe to them, ‘this is what the Army is about,’” said Roger Combs, CASA Southwest regional manager.
Serving across the U.S. and its territories, there are more than 120 CASAs committed to their communities and the priorities the Army has set forth.
“CASA’s primary mission is recruiting. To get the recruiting numbers up, these influential leaders have the ability to speak with leaders in their communities, to tell the Army story and to help people understand the Army is not just about going to combat,” Combs said.
“I absolutely enjoy the recruiting and outreach aspects of our job,” said Deborah Gantt, CASA Northeast regional manager. “What I’m doing, by supporting 120 plus CASAs in their communities, gives me satisfaction to know we are doing our part to help the Army meet its mission. It is very important for the United States to have an effective Army, and we can only do that if we keep putting Soldiers in boots.”
CASAs can help with recruiting by engaging and communicating with their local communities through prospect and awareness campaigns and telling the Army story.
Prospect campaigns are designed to help maintain the Army’s authorized personnel strength by providing recruiters with Army personnel and equipment to visit schools and to reach prospects and influencers. It’s also an opportunity for the Army to tell its story in institutions of education. CASAs often have education opportunities they can provide to their communities.
“Every year, Cadet Command releases new guidance concerning how many scholarships each CASA will receive,” said Combs. “This year, each CASA had two scholarships to endorse individuals attending ROTC, a tool that can help bring young men and women into the Army.”
CASAs consider students enrolled in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps for college scholarships, which can extend out to four years, creating a direct path to becoming an officer in the Army.
Combs said that more than 200 scholarships were available for ROTC students this year, and packets were submitted for more than 90% of them.
Whereas prospect campaigns are used to communicate with students of all types, awareness campaigns reach out to the public through events like parades, fairs, festivals, community celebrations, military open-house functions, job fairs and public meetings.
“Brian Concannon, CASA for Massachusetts, has been a CASA since 2017,” said Gantt. “Concannon has been an integral part of numerous prospect and awareness events in his home state.”
“I have worked with the New England Patriots since 2019 to expand their ‘Salute to Service’ to honor military members, veterans and their families at games before or after Veterans Day,” said Concannon. “Most importantly, I have focused my efforts on expanding the success of the Army recruiting mission in Massachusetts, implementing Soldier for Life initiatives throughout the commonwealth that support Veterans and their families, and fostering closer working relationships between the active Army units, Reserve units and the National Guard throughout the state.”
Additionally, CASAs serve as liaisons to the Army National Guard and Reserves, support Solders for Life, speak at community events, and act as advocates for Soldiers, their families and the Army civilian workforce.
“Recently, there’s been an explosion of information about CASAs and what they do in the community,” Gantt said. “I think the face of the program and the importance of the program is just so much greater now, and it continues to grow.”
Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army