FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Oct. 25, 2012) -- "Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army are critical in connecting our Army with the American public, " said Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal while discussing the future of the Army with 36 Civilian Aides to the Secretary of the Army, or CASAs, during the 2012 CASA Fall Conference.During the week-long conference, CASAs participated in the Association of the United States Army's 2012 Annual Meeting & Exposition and received various updates from Army leadership on a range of issues related to the status and the future of the Army."Being a Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army allows me to communicate with citizens that may not understand the priorities of the Army. I'm honored to be able to contribute in this capacity as the Army enters this critical phase and transforms to meet the needs of the future," said retired Maj. Gen. Felix Santoni, civilian aide to the Secretary (Puerto Rico).CASAs, who were formally recognized in 1922, have become vital in promoting good relations between the Army and the public, and advising the Secretary of the Army about regional issues."I appreciate what you each of you do during this critical time for our Army. Your service on behalf of Soldiers ensures that Americans understand how incredible their Army is, and our Soldiers and families appreciate your contributions," commented Westphal.Each state, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories have one or more CASAs appointed to provide a vital link between the Army and the communities for which they serve. CASAs are usually business or civic leaders who possess a keen interest in the welfare of the Army and their communities.CASAs serve a two-year term without compensation. Terms may be extended to a total of 10 years of service, followed by possible appointment as a CASA Senior for six additional years. The Secretary of the Army may recognize a Civilian Aide as a CASA Emeritus after 16 years of service. To date, more than 500 individuals have served the Army and the nation as a CASA."Secretary (of the Army John) McHugh and Under Secretary Westphal have been extremely effective in facilitating a forum that allows CASAs to meet and understand the challenges that each of us face in our regions. This conference has allowed me to understand the priorities that the Secretary [of the Army] has determined are key to our Army, and has given me key insights that I will take back with me to Puerto Rico as I continue my work on behalf of the Army," said Santoni.Learn more about the CASA program by calling (703) 697-2639.