By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press ServiceMay 15, 2007
WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, May 15, 2007) - The U.S. military is involved in a "persistent conflict," and the Army must be prepared to handle the commitment, the Army chief of staff said May 11.
Gen. George W. Casey Jr. spoke to reporters in the Pentagon in his first interview since he took the position a month ago, after commanding coalition forces in Iraq for almost three years.
"The enemy that has attacked us and we are fighting in places around the world isn't going to fold up and go home," he said. "They are going to continue to press us."
Gen. Casey said he was very deliberate before taking office. He tasked a group to study the state of the Army today and another to study the likely state of the world in 2020. He then had the two groups come together and propose a course for America's largest armed service.
He said Soldiers are "generally comfortable with the transformational direction that we are on." In general, officials admit there is some "tweaking" to do, but modularization is the correct path for the Army, he said.
Families are most stretched by repeated deployments, he said, and he acknowledged that the service's new 15-month deployment policy has placed another element of stress on military families. "We've been to a lot of units that were affected by the 15-month announcement, and while they understand the rationale, the families are stretched by this," he said.
He wants the Army "to ratchet up our game" in providing support to the families.
It is no secret that the Army, as an institution, "is affected by the cumulative effects of five years at war," he said.
The general said the problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here are an example of these accumulated stresses. "There are a lot of other stress points out there that I am asking people to help me identify," he said.
"We must improve what we're doing for Soldiers and families," he said. "Spouses said, 'We don't need a lot of new programs -- what we need is for you to fund the ones you have, and standardize the ones you have across installations.'" This includes health care, facilities, living conditions and access to facilities.
Gen. Casey said he is impressed by the level of commitment on the part of Soldiers and families. They understand what the country is doing around the world and "they believe in what they are doing," he said.
The new chief of staff said he wants to accelerate the pace of a recently approved increase in the Army's size and improve readiness, noting that two years usually pass between a decision being made to having units on the ground, fully equipped. "We cannot address this instantaneously, but we need to address it faster," he said.
The service must complete transformation of reserve components from a Cold War mobilization force to an operational enhancement for the active components.
The Army needs to concentrate on leader development and growing the next generation of commissioned and noncommissioned officers, Gen. Casey said, and to fit that training into the deployment cycle. "We need to fully adapt our institutional programs -- like the NCO professional military education -- to an Army that is expeditionary and at war," he said.
Finally, the service needs to improve strategic communications externally and internally. "It's been unanimous," he said. "I can't find anyone ... who thinks we do a good job of communicating at all."