The Chief of Staff of the Army met with family members, toured new and renovated facilities, and was briefed by U.S. Army Africa leadership during a visit to U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza Friday.
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., returning to the United States after visiting troops in Afghanistan, met with 35 family support group leaders in Davis Hall after touring the garrison’s recently dedicated health center and primary education complex.
“This is like a walk down memory lane,” Casey told the family members, who gathered for an update and a question-and-answer session with the CSA.
He gave family members an update on the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which is presently nearing the end of a deployment in Afghanistan, discussed the increase of rest time between deployments and addressed concerns regarding expected cuts in the Department of Defense budget.
“I was with the brigade Wednesday. They have made great progress over the course of the past year, remarkable progress,” Casey said.
Perhaps the best news for the attentive family members was the arrival of the 10th Mountain Division’s 4th Brigade advance party on the ground in Afghanistan. The division is scheduled to take over from the 173rd, which will return to Vicenza over the course of the next several months.
“They’re on their way,” Casey told the family members. “I just want to say thank you to the Soldiers and family members here in Vicenza. You’ve carried a heavy burden over the last several years, and we thank you for your service.”
Addressing other issues, upcoming budget cuts across the Department of Defense have been anticipated for some time, Casey said, endeavoring to put a projected $10 billion reduction in over all outlays into perspective.
“I have told them: Hands off the family programs. We have doubled family programs since 2007. That’s the first thing I want to tell you: Don’t worry about the money,” Casey said.
He expects the total Army force to be in a better state of balance by the end of next year, a combined result of increased enlistment and an increase in rest time for Soldiers between deployments.
The authorization to add 75,000 Soldiers to the ranks, made several years ago, has been augmented by the support of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to authorize another 22,000 under the present administration, he said.
“You’ll see that impact, along with the reduction in Iraq,” he told the family members.
The increase in dwell time in between deployments, increasing from 12 months to 18-24 months, will also have a beneficial effect. “That’s the most important thing we needed to do to get ourselves back in balance,” Casey said.
Casey said he was impressed by improvements to the infrastructure and range of services built by the garrison over the past few years.
“I was in the first company that came from Germany to here in 1973, so it’s changed a lot,” he said.
“Holy, Mac! I just saw the health center, the new elementary and middle school, and the barracks renovations taking place here. I thought it was Gen. Hogg’s house when I drove up,” Casey quipped.
“The last thing is, we remain absolutely committed to the Family Covenant, and delivering on it,” Casey said, before opening the floor up for questions and comments.
He met later with U.S. Army Africa Commander, Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg, for a briefing on U.S. Army Africa, the force’s newest Army Service Component Command.
“This really allows us to focus on the land forces in Africa in a way we’ve never been able to do before. Over the next few years, one of things you’ll see is a Regimental Brigade Combat Team that’s focused on Africa. That’s going to really ramp up our abilities,” he said.
Casey also met briefly with AFN South and U.S. Army Africa journalists before beginning his journey back to the United States.