USA — Casey Shares Vision of National Guard’s Future

NEW ORLEANS — Return­ing the Nation­al Guard to its Cold War-era strate­gic reserve pos­ture is not the answer when Defense lead­ers dis­cuss the future, the Army’s chief of staff said here yes­ter­day.

“No one wants to go back to the Guard being just a strate­gic reserve,” Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said dur­ing a vis­it to the 2010 Nation­al Guard Fam­i­ly Pro­gram Vol­un­teer Work­shop. “We have come way too far. Half of the Guard are com­bat vet­er­ans. That’s a fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent force and, as a result, it’s a fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent Army.”

The Unit­ed States is in an era of per­sis­tent con­flict, Casey said, adding that he antic­i­pates a sig­nif­i­cant oper­a­tional tem­po for the next decade. That fol­lows nine years of war in which the Nation­al Guard has already played a cru­cial role.

“We are active­ly work­ing through a study that will answer the ques­tion for us: ‘What should the role of the Guard and Reserve be in an era where we’re like­ly to have to rely on them con­tin­u­ous­ly for a long peri­od of time?’ ” he said.

The Army could not have accom­plished what it has over last nine years with­out the Nation­al Guard, Casey said. “It’s Min­ute­men and women that are hold­ing this force togeth­er,” he told the group. “Thank you for what you have done to sup­port this Army and this coun­try.”

The gen­er­al and his wife, Sheila, spent about two hours talk­ing with vol­un­teers who sup­port Nation­al Guard fam­i­lies. An event sched­uled in the same room was can­celled as the cou­ple lin­gered for an hour beyond their planned vis­it to address ques­tions from a stand­ing-room-only audi­ence of Guard fam­i­ly mem­bers.

“It’s not just the Guard fam­i­lies,” Casey said. “It’s the entire vol­un­teer force. We real­ized back in 2007 that we had to sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase what we were doing for all Army fam­i­lies, because of what we were ask­ing of them. We were ask­ing of them far more than what our pro­grams were deliv­er­ing.”

Spend­ing on fam­i­ly pro­grams has dou­bled, and an Army covenant recom­mit­ted lead­er­ship to sup­port­ing active, Guard and reserve fam­i­lies.

“There’s always more work to do, but I think it’s been very well-received,” Casey said.

The Caseys have a non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer son on active duty with the Army Reserve, mak­ing Sheila Casey both a soldier’s wife and a soldier’s moth­er. Meet­ing with vol­un­teers to whom she can relate not just through empa­thy but also by first-hand expe­ri­ence, she empha­sized self-care.

“Part of the prob­lem that care­givers have is that they don’t take care of them­selves,” she said. “Every­body else comes first. What I end up see­ing is peo­ple who after extend­ed deploy­ments … are burned out and they’re tired.

“What I ask them to do is to change that and to start putting them­selves first, on top of the pile,” she added. “If they do that, then they will have the strength and the where­with­al to take care of their fam­i­lies.”

Sheila Casey tells mil­i­tary spous­es to find one thing that they love to do that is just for them­selves and take the time to do that.

Her hus­band briefed Guard fam­i­ly pro­gram vol­un­teers on the Guard’s trans­formed role since Sept. 11, 2001, and Defense Depart­ment lead­ers’ goals for a future of more pre­dictable deploy­ments and more time at home between deploy­ments.

Stand­ing in front of a chrono­log­i­cal chart dis­play­ing the Guard’s con­tri­bu­tions in the more than 60 years since World War II, the gen­er­al explained how a deci­sion made from lessons learned from the Viet­nam War trans­formed the Guard.

“The gen­er­al con­ven­tion­al wis­dom com­ing out of that peri­od … that we had to rely on the draft and could not rely on the Guard and Reserve broke the active Army,” Casey said.

That’s too sim­plis­tic, … but … that led [to] the total force pol­i­cy, and they said, ‘We will nev­er again go to war with­out the Guard and Reserve.’ ”

The Guard’s role increased in the ear­ly 1990s fol­low­ing Oper­a­tion Desert Storm, and notably shift­ed in the days after the 9/11 attacks. It has not dimin­ished since.

“From Desert Storm, there has been rel­a­tive­ly con­sis­tent reliance on the Guard and reserve,” Casey said. “Since Sept. 11, we have relied on the Guard and Reserve for a dura­tion and a scope that real­ly has been unprece­dent­ed in the last 60 years.

“We are pret­ty close to being one Army,” he con­tin­ued. “We have pur­pose­ly inte­grat­ed the Guard into every­thing that we do. We have made a huge change with the Guard over the last nine years. … None of us want to go back to hav­ing the Guard as just a strate­gic reserve.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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