FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The Army Chief of Staff met with U.S. Army Special Operations Command and XVIII Airborne Corps leaders, Soldiers and family members during a short visit to the post April 20 and 21.

Gen. George W. Casey Jr. addressed the USASOC commander's conference Tuesday evening before spending Wednesday morning touring the post and visiting Corps units.

Casey viewed progress at the future home of U.S. Army Forces Command and drove by one of the posts new leased housing developments. During a press briefing later in the day Casey discussed the positive impact the arrival of FORSCOM headquarters will have on both the post and the community.

Casey travelled to XVIII Airborne Corps headquarters for an update on issues concerning the Corps from Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, XVIII Airborne Corps commander and took time to recognize Fort Bragg's Soldier and NCO of the Year candidates.

Helmick accompanied Casey during his visit to the corps, including a stop at the Watters Center for a family forum with about 100 family members from the 82nd Airborne Division headquarters, the division's 1st and 4th Brigade Combat Teams, the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 16th Military Police Brigade and 82nd Sustainment Brigade.

Family members from the 18th Fires Brigade, 20th Engineer Brigade and 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade rounded out the list of attendees.

Casey spoke to the group, which was made up mostly of Army wives, about the Army's budget and how it affects them, dwell time after their spouses return from deployments and the Army's future.

He said the Army is continuing to focus on taking care of its Soldiers and their families.

"Our budget for the session is $245 billion, just by way of perspective, our budget in 2001 was $75 billion," Casey explained to the spouses. "So Congress and the American people are making sure that we have the resources to do what we need to do."

He said it's important for Army leadership to become more proficient on how to distribute the funds.

"I know one of the thing folks worry about is if we're going to forget about the families soon as the demand goes down," he said. "I can tell you, as long as I'm around, that's not going to happen."

He also addressed any concerns about Soldier deployments and their time spent with families between deployments, saying that every Soldier is entitled to a minimum of 12 months, regardless of whether they transfer to a different unit.

He said construction efforts, such as the construction of the U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command Headquarters here, are not limited to Fort Bragg.

"You can't go on an Army installation without seeing that," Casey said, referring to the construction on Fort Bragg. "It affects 380,000 Soldiers ... As with everything else in the Army, it's all going to happen within the next 18 months."

Many of the spouses who attended the forum said they were thankful that he came and addressed their concerns.

"It was informative, a lot of good and a lot of hard questions were asked," Angela Hontz, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Donald Hontz, 82nd Airborne Division, said following the forum.

Others agreed.

"I thought it was great," explained Kimberly Power, one of the spouses in attendance. "I thought he answered all the questions and any question that I had was already asked by everyone else and answered by him."

To some first-timers, the event was a learning experience.

"It was the first opportunity I've had to come out to something like this, being fairly new to the military," explained family member Sara Tamski. "There were programs mentioned that I hadn't heard of before, so I found it very informative."

Casey concluded his visit by meeting with local media before boarding his aircraft at Pope Air Force base. Casey answered questions and discussed the important issues within the Fort Bragg community, summarizing his visit with Soldiers and Army spouses earlier that day.

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