By Jeremy S. BuddemeierMay 2, 2007
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Army News Service, May 2, 2007) - During his whirlwind visit to Hawaii, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey, accompanied by wife, Sheila, addressed the concerns of spouses whose Soldiers are currently deployed.
At Schofield, Gen. and Mrs. Casey met with more than 100 of those spouses in a town hall forum, where he gave a brief presentation of his seven initiatives which seek to balance strategic requirements and resources throughout the Army and to sustain an expeditionary Army at war.
As forthright as Gen. Casey was with his initiatives, so too was his audience as they brought their concerns to his attention.
"Do you honestly see the spiraling effect of deployments stopping'" asked one spouse regarding the progressive increase in duration of deployments from six months in 1994 to the current 15 months.
"I can't guarantee that won't happen," Gen. Casey said. "The pace will only slow down if the demand for forces goes down."
Another spouse, whose wife is serving on her second deployment, asked if the reductions in force and base realignment and closures of the 1990s were the reasons for the recent deployment extensions.
"Absolutely," Gen. Casey acknowledged. "People looked at the future and said, 'It looks pretty good,'" citing reductions in military spending following the Cold War.
Gen. Casey stressed the need for ideas from "bureaucracy busters," to bring about relevant changes in Army policy. He encouraged all at the town hall to become active participants in change.
"We're currently using a system that was designed for another era, not for an Army that has been at war for five years," he said.
Mrs. Casey recalled one such bureaucracy-busting idea regarding the Montgomery G.I. Bill. A spouse at another installation had recommended altering the bill so the educational benefits could be transferred to a spouse or child, she said.
In addition to benefits and compensation issues, two spouses posed questions about the possibility of awarding higher housing priorities to spouses of deployed Soldiers, and increasing off-post educators' awareness of the unique needs of military children.
Another spouse wondered why many Soldiers were completing their second or third deployments, yet others had not deployed at all. She wished to know if anything was going to be done to ensure equity and sharing of the burden.
"We need to do a better job of getting everybody into the fight," Gen. Casey acknowledged."
The general also called winning in Iraq a long-term proposition. He said that requires providing a secure enough environment so the Iraqi government can move forward and run itself. He estimated that day is five to 10 years away.
Gen. and Mrs. Casey will continue to tour installations, gathering comments and addressing Soldier and spouse concerns throughout the next month. He intends to begin implementing his seven initiatives beginning in July.
(Jeremy S. Buddemeier serves as assistant editor for "Hawaii Army Weekly.)