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General Casey Retirement Ceremony

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, The Pentagon, Monday, April 11, 2011

I’m honored to be here today to pay tribute to a truly dedicated soldier, General George Casey, as he retires after more than four decades of service to our country.

I’d like to start by saying a few words about the Casey family, which continues a proud tradition of service and sacrifice to the Army and to our country.  Always by his side, George’s wife, Sheila, has provided strong support throughout his career – through the triumphs and rough spots.  Sheila’s has been a powerful voice of friendship and hope for so many of America’s young military families as they endure the countless sacrifices and challenges this country asks of them.  Thank you Sheila for all you have given.  I’d also like to recognize and thank their sons Ryan and Sean for their sacrifices and support along the way, including Ryan’s service as a soldier in Afghanistan. 

Today, we say goodbye to a valued leader who has served with honor and distinction throughout a long and successful military career.  Early on, George displayed an impressive endurance for hardship – not only did he get a Ranger tab, he also volunteered to spend a year in the Sinai as a United Nations observer, sharing cramped quarters with a group of Russian officers.  That posting, to one of the bleakest spots on the planet, with Ivan watching his every move, ably prepared George for later assignments at one of the planet’s other bleak spots, the Pentagon.  He survived several rotations within these walls, and his performance led to some of the most important joint positions in our military, including Director of Strategic Plans and Policy and, later, Director to the Joint Staff. 

It’s a great testament to General Casey’s sense of duty that, well ensconced as Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, he took on one of the toughest assignments in recent military history: commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq.   He led our forces in Iraq through a difficult and crucial period – the transition to a sovereign government, three elections, and the growth – in size and capability – of the Iraqi Army and Police.  His personal demeanor, steady confidence and care for the well being of his troops served as an important example for our young men and women on the front lines. 

General Casey became Chief of Staff knowing full well the stresses and strains that had buffeted the Army during what he so aptly labeled an “era of persistent conflict” – the stress of patrolling Iraq’s narrow streets, never knowing where the next lethal bomb will be, or walking point in Afghanistan’s countryside, not knowing if the next step will be your last. 

George and Sheila journeyed to installations and units around the world to speak to Army families and see firsthand how they were handling the strain of simultaneously fighting two wars.  They saw that the Army family needed care and attention. 

Under General Casey, the Army expanded programs to help America’s wounded sons and daughters receive needed treatment and recover from war’s physical and emotional trauma.  George greatly increased the number of behavioral health providers and improved mental health screening for returning soldiers in order to identify those at risk. 

He pushed the Army to reduce the stigma associated with combat stress and traumatic brain injuries and to treat them as the injuries they truly are.  General Casey led the battle to provide long-term support to survivors of the fallen, creating the Army Survivor Outreach Services.  He also implemented alcohol treatment and suicide prevention programs at Army installations around the country to help returning soldiers struggling to adjust to life at home. 

When authorized to increase the size of the Army during this high demand period, General Casey did it rapidly – meeting or exceeding goals for both numbers and quality.  Because of his efforts, the Army was able to end the practice of stop-loss and increase soldiers’ home station dwell time – developments that have greatly increased force readiness.  Nearly 70 percent of the Army is now on a path to meet the goal of two years home for every year deployed.  As the drawdown in Iraq continues, and the transition in Afghanistan begins, I hope the Army will be able to achieve its longer term goal of three years home for every year deployed.

The Army George Casey leaves behind, a force that has borne the brunt of our nation’s wars, is more resilient, better trained, more balanced and vastly more lethal because of his leadership.  He served as a stalwart advocate and guide for thousands of brave young men and women, and their loved ones. 

General Casey, as you retire after so many years of distinguished service to the American people and to your beloved Army, I want to express the gratitude of this nation, and, most importantly, the gratitude of the soldiers whose causes and concerns you made your own.  Yours is a record of dedicated and distinguished service – one that I am certain will be a source of great pride to you in the years to come. 

I wish you and Sheila all the best as you begin this next chapter in your lives.  Thank you and god bless you all.

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