Army chief visits JRTC
Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey visited the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, LA. to see how Soldiers returning from deployment are readjusting. Moreover, Casey wants to learn more about the impacts of repeated deployments on Soldiers and their families.
"The most important thing we can do to help our Soldiers and families get back in balance is increase the amount of time they spend at home between deployments," he said. "We do that two ways - increase the supply (size of the Army) or decrease the demand. Right now we're doing both. We met the growth targets, established in 2007, in January of this year. We were tasked to meet them by 2012 - so we're three years ahead of schedule. That will have a positive impact."
As for decreasing the demand, Casey pointed to President Barack Obama's plan to draw down the number of troops in Iraq.
"When that is executed, we'll get better dwell rates in 2010 and 2011 than I originally expected," he said. "If the draw down proceeds as planned, we'll get almost 2 ½ years of dwell time between deployments. That's about where we need to be."
Casey said work is underway to not only increase the time between deployments, but also cut their length.
"We know 12 and 15 months is too long to sustain repeatedly, and we know that six months is too short for the operational environment," he said. "Once we get demand down to about 10 brigade combat teams, we're looking at nine-month deployments. That's nine months out, 24-27 months back. We think that is much more sustainable. We're not going to get there, I don't think, in the next two years, but shortly after that I think we'll be able to do it."
Casey also spoke about the Army's attempt to quell the rise of suicides.
"As you know, the suicide rate last year and the start of this year is the highest since we started keeping data," he said. "The underlying causes are the pressures put on Soldiers by repeated deployments. By this summer, the Army will have developed a Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, designed to prevent suicides," Casey said.
"A lot of people think everyone who goes to combat gets post-traumatic stress, but it's just not true," he said. "The fact is the majority of people come back from combat with a growth experience by confronting something very, very difficult. Our goal is have more Soldiers have that growth experience."
Families are important to Army leadership and Casey said the service has maintained its promises made in the Army Family Covenant.
"We made a pact with families to fund existing family programs, provide better access to quality health care, provide quality housing, create better child care and support for youth services and better educational activities for spouses," he said. "We will deliver on all of these."
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Redwater, Alberta, Canada