By Sgt. Opal Hood, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentDecember 18, 2009
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. visited troops in Afghanistan for the holidays, Dec. 17.
Casey conducted a battlefield circulation to three bases throughout eastern Afghanistan. His circulation included Forward Operating Base Lightning, Combat Outpost Narizah, and Bagram Airfield.
"Anytime a Soldier is away from home, I think it is important for them to know that we haven't forgotten about them, especially during the holiday season," Casey said. "And I want to thank them for what they are doing to make a difference around the world."
While at FOB Lightning, Casey met with American and Afghan National Army soldiers. The ANA soldiers prepared a brief for Casey.
"I was very impressed with the Afghan National Army," said Casey. "One of the things that impressed me the most today is when I looked at the slides in the Afghan Tactical Operations Center. There were no American symbols, which is an important step."
After leaving FOB Ghazni, the general flew to COP Narizah in Khost province, where he visited leaders and troops, gave out awards and filmed a holiday message.
Casey awarded three purple hearts when he arrived at COP Narizah.
One of the awardees, Sgt. Christopher Hayes, an infantry weapons squad leader with 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, spoke about the Chief of Staff awarding him his purple heart.
"It was pretty cool and definitely an honor," said Hayes. "It doesn't get any higher than him. It was very nice of him, to come see where we live and spend some time with us."
After filming a holiday message for troops around the world, Casey stayed for dinner at the COP with the Soldiers. Casey sat at a table with five enlisted Soldiers and chatted about an assortment of topics.
"My message for the troops is, 'thank you for what you are doing here in Afghanistan and all over the world, my thoughts and prayers are with you this holiday season,'" said Casey.
The chief of staff then flew to Bagram to meet with more Regional Command East Soldiers.
At Bagram's Morale, Welfare and Recreation clamshell tent, Casey spoke of the new Afghan strategy.
"The most important thing that Soldiers need to know about the new Afghan strategy [is] that we are in it to win," said Casey. "We are also going to be able to execute this plus-up of Soldiers without going back to 15-month deployments, without having to go to less than 12 months at home and people will continue to come off of Stop Loss in January."
After a brief question-and-answer session with the Soldiers of Bagram Airfield, the Army chief of staff finished the night off singing Jingle Bells with Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas R. Capel, Combined Joint Task Force-82 command sergeant major and the Soldiers inside the clamshell tent.