FORT SILL, Okla. (Army News Service, Nov. 2, 2007) -- The top Soldier in the Army, Gen. George Casey, Army Chief of Staff, visited Fort Sill Nov. 1 to talk to, and hear from, some of the Army's future leaders.

Casey spoke with about 150 captains from Fort Sill's Captain's Career Course and talked about his vision of where the Army is now, and where it is headed.

Casey has been the chief of staff for about six months and he said even the top job has a learning curve.

"The first six months is kind of like walking around in a dark garage full of rakes," Gen. Casey said to the amusement of the captains. "Every time I took a step, something hit me in the nose."

He said as he and his wife, Sheila, have travelled the world to talk to Soldiers and hear what they have to say.

"The Army is stretched," Gen. Casey said. "There's no doubt about it and the families are the most riddled part of the force. They're feeling it more than ever. We're out there hooking and jabbing, doing what we signed up to do, doing what we love to do and they're back here on the homefront. We now have a clear recognition that we need to up our game in terms of what we're doing for our families."

Casey pointed to the Army's Family Covenant, which is a new $1.4 billion program the Army is putting into affect to help families of Soldiers. The Army Family Covenant signing ceremony at Fort Sill is Nov. 19.

"We're curious to see what will come out of this," said Capt. Michael Kurtich, CCC student. "I just hope somebody raises some issues that we haven't thought of yet."

The captains said with the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff visiting them two weeks ago, and now the Chief of Staff of the Army, they're wondering where all the attention is coming from.

"It's an honor for him to come speak to us," Kurtich said. "It doesn't happen very often, especially at the level we are in our careers."

Before the meeting, Kurtich and his battle buddies thought retention might be a hot topic for the chief of staff.

"Everyone has their own reasons to stay in or get out and I think he wants to gage the feelings of junior officers," Kurtich said.

Casey said Soldiers understand something much of the public, and even politicians, don't; terrorists are out to destroy the American way of life. He said that's why we fight and the next 10 or 20 years will be defined as a state of "persistent conflict."

Casey took about 15 questions from the students, ranging from the Army relying too heavily on contractors to the Marines taking exclusive control in Afghanistan.

One subject he brought up, because he knows it's a hot topic, is dwell time.

Casey echoed Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, saying his desire is to get those Soldiers who are deployed for 15 months back home for 15 months and, eventually, have a one year for one year trade by late 2008.

In answer to one captain, Casey said he personally did not think Iraq would ever be like Germany or Korea and have permanent fixed bases.

"I suspect we'll have forces there for a long time, but I think it will continue to be unaccompanied," the chief said.

After talking with the captains, Casey flew to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., for a tele-conference and then headed back to Washington, D.C.

Before leaving, he promised the future leaders that he was taking care of them and would give them an Army they and their families could be proud of.

"We're working to build a campaign quality, expeditionary Army that can operate across the spectrum of conflict in the 21st century," he said.