Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 25, 2008 - As part of a week-long tour to visit soldiers around the world in Korea, Japan, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey made a stop here to assess the current situation in country and speak with troops. "I really just wanted to look as many of our men and women in the eye as I can and thank them for what they're doing and for the sacrifices that they and their families are making here around the holidays," Casey said.
In an interview with American Forces Network during his visit to Victory Base Complex, Iraq, Dec. 22, Casey, who previously served as the commanding general of Multi-National Force – Iraq, spoke of the immense progress he's witnessed in Iraq in comparison to previous visits to the country.
"I've seen huge progress here in Iraq since July of 2004," Casey said. "What I saw in Basrah and on the streets of al Amarah was a real vitality among the Iraqis. When I looked at the security forces, I saw confidence and a commitment that I didn't necessarily see when I was here before." Casey addressed the goal of balancing the force in coming years to accommodate proper recuperation and preparedness of Soldiers and their families between deployments.
"While this is the most resilient, professionally seasoned combat force that I've been associated with in the 38 years of my own service, we're stretched, and we're deploying at a rate we can't continue and still sustain the all-volunteer force, and we don't have enough time at home to prepare for other things," Casey said.
Casey explained a plan developed last year and expected to be implemented by the end of the fiscal year will include sustaining soldiers and their families, continuing to sustain soldiers for success in the current conflict, resetting them and their equipment when returning from deployments, and continuing to transform for an uncertain future.
In order to accommodate such a plan, the Army must continue to grow.
"Probably the most significant progress has been in our [the Army's] growth," Casey said. "In 2007, the president directed we grow the Army by about 74,000, and originally, plans were to complete that growth by 2012."
Casey said the increase in the force could happen much sooner than initially anticipated. He pointed out that the uptick in troop strength would make deployments much easier on soldiers.
"With (Defense) Secretary (Robert M.) Gates' help, we accelerated the growth to 2010 and I've been told recently by our personnel folks that we except to bring in the people we were looking for by the end of 2009, so that's three years faster than we thought," Casey said.
"If we hold the demand for our forces relatively steady – about where we are now – and we grow, what that means to our soldiers is they'll spend more time at home between missions because we have more units to go," Casey said. "So, we expect in 2009 to get almost an average of 18 months home between deployments, in 2010 to get into 18 months and in 2011 to get almost 24 months between deployments."
According to Casey, the Army that can be expected in future years is the force America needs with the conditions soldiers want.
"The Army we're trying to build by the end of 2011 is an expeditionary Army that deploys on a rotational cycle," Casey said. "We believe that's the Army the country needs for 21st century challenges. And when we get there, we want to be able to deploy that Army without a stop loss."
The probability of stop losses in the Army should significantly wane within the next one to two years and soon be nonexistent.
"I directed my personnel folks to begin weaning ourselves off of stop loss as soon as we can, but no later than the first of January 2010," Casey said. "I want to be able to start deploying units without stop loss."
Casey did note, however, that the transition would likely take about two years to come full circle.
(Article by Multinational Force-Iraq Public Affairs Office)