General George W. Casey, Jr.
Chief of Staff of the Army

3rd Infantry Division
Soldier Visit

19 December 2007

General Casey: -- I'm just making a little Christmas trip here, going around and talking to folks, wishing everybody a very happy holiday season. This will be my first Christmas home, I'm going to get back in time for Christmas, in four years so I do have some appreciation of what it's like to be away from your family on the holidays. I can just tell you that the rest of the Army and the people of the United States of America appreciate the sacrifices that you and your families are making in this holiday season.

I think it's also useful to remind ourselves periodically about what's at stake here and what's the impact of what you're doing. Because when you get down in the day to day stuff dealing with [inaudible] sometimes you lose the big picture. I have to go back and remind myself sometimes that we are at war with a global extremist terrorist network that attacked us, and they are not going to quit nor are they going to give up and go home easily. We're going to have to [inaudible] doing out here.

What's at stake here is nothing less than the ideals on which this country is based and all about it. You all know al-Qaida and you read their stuff. They are out to destroy our way of life. We're going to defeat them here and we're going to defeat them in Afghanistan so that we don't have to fight them in the United States.

It's worth once in a while reminding yourself of that when you're up to your eyeballs in dust and things. What you're doing here is allowing the country that was formed with our Declaration of Independence to continue on in the 21st Century, and don't forget that.

Now a couple of other things, then I'll be happy to take some questions from you.

First of all, one of the questions I get most when I'm going around talking to soldiers is what's up with the 15 months, when are we coming off that' What I say is the 15 months has always been temporary. What I'm working on is to get assurance so when I say we're coming off 15 months we're not going back.

Here's what I think. I think if the plan that's been announced right now to get down to 15 brigades in Iraq by July, if that's instituted I think we'll come off 15 months next summer. So the units deploying starting sometime next summer will deploy for 12 months.

Now I'm not ready to say that solidly yet, but that's the direction we're headed.

While we're doing that we'll also be working on increasing the length of time that you stay at home. It will take us a couple of years to get back to 15 month dwell, then 18 month dwell, then 24 months dwell, but I think over the next two or three years you'll see a gradual increase in the amount of dwell time that you have.

We're working on that. You do need to know it is temporary. We're not blocking that outcome. And I suspect, knock on wood, that sometime next summer the rotations will come for 12.

Next point. Some of you may or may not have heard about the Army Family Covenant that the Secretary and I have issued a covenant with Army families because in my travels with my wife as I first took over this job it was clear to us that we weren't doing enough for Army families and we were asking a heck of a lot of them. So we issued a covenant that has within it the five things the families told us they wanted most. We put $1.4 billion toward soldiers and families in this year coming up here. That's about twice as much as we've put there in the past. We're trying to one, re-express our support for families and our prioritization of families; and two, put our money where our mouth is.

That's the second thing I wanted to leave with you.

The last thing that I get, I get questions all the time when I'm talking to audiences back in the United States about quality. Is the quality of the Army going down' What I say is the number of high school graduates has dropped by about 10 percent. All the other quality markers are about the same. But what you don't see is the great men and women of what is, as your brigade commander said, the best Army in the world. I've traveled around the world meeting with different armies, and there's no doubt in anyone's mind who the best Army in the world is. It's because of our soldiers.

I just stopped in Alaska on the way out here and I presented the Distinguished Service Cross to Sergeant Greg Williams a mortarman. He was up in the Haria District of Baghdad in October. The Stryker he was on got hit by a four-EFP array. You know what that does. Set the Stryker on fire. He was knocked out. His legs burned, eardrums burst. He woke up, he was on fire, his buddy next to him was on fire. He put his buddy out, put himself out, grabbed the aid bag, ran out the back to help his buddies, and they were all okay. He realized his lieutenant was still stuck on the burning Stryker. He turned around, ran back into the burning Stryker, dragged the lieutenant to safety.

They were pinned down from two different directions in addition to the EFP [strike]. He recognized that the 50 cal wasn't in the fight. So he ran back on the burning track. A burning track that had all their ammunition, 30 pounds of C4, 250 [inaudible], yet he went back on the track, manned the 50, and began hosing down the enemy position. Broke their backs. They broke the contact, and were extracted.

That's the kind of young men and women we have all over this United States Army, and that's the reason why we are the best Army in the world.

So thank you for what you're doing here far from home over the holidays. The contribution that you're making is absolutely recognized by the American people and the rest of the United States Army. So thank you very much for what you're doing.

Thank you for the absolutely magnificent job that you're doing here. You're making a huge difference and you're keeping the United States of America safe. So good luck to you, God bless you, and happy holidays. Thanks.

[Applause and Hooahs].