Casey Takes Over Army Helm

By Carmen L. Gleason
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2007 - After nearly four decades of military service, Gen. Peter Schoomaker today handed the reins of Army chief of staff to Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who most recently served as commander of Multinational Forces Iraq.

Casey became the 36th Army chief of staff.

This was the second time Schoomaker has retired from Army life; he first retired in 2000 but was asked to return in 2003 to serve in the Army's top billet.

"Every so often an institution needs a leader to remind it of its core values," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said of Schoomaker. "He's done that by emphasizing the Warrior Ethos, focusing on physical fitness and basic skills like marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat."

Gates said this has led to a renewal of timeless values like personal courage and pride in one's physical and mental strength. "These are integral parts of the moral fiber and institutional memory that has, throughout history, made our military so effective against our enemies and so respected by our friends," the secretary said.

Top defense officials have credited Schoomaker with engineering the Army's greatest reorganization since World War II, as well as revamping training protocol across the force, all while the Army was engaged in combat.

The general led the transformation from a division-based to brigade-based Army that provided a fully modular force that was not only lighter but also more lethal, Gates said. The timetable to deploy brigades has become days or weeks, rather than months under Schoomaker's leadership, he said.

Gates said Schoomaker showed remarkable ability in leading individuals as well as institutions during his more than 30 years in the military. "He prepared our forces for the kinds of wars we are fighting and the ones we many be called upon to fight in the future," Gates said. "It is a difficult task in an environment that requires a rifleman and a smart bomb, an unconventional approach as well as conventional power."

As he said farewell to the Army, he took the opportunity to pass along words of advice to the many top military brass and political leaders in attendance. "I believe that this is the most dangerous period of my lifetime," Schoomaker said. "We are still closer to the beginning than the end of this fight."

He told the audience the pace of the Army's transformation and adaptation must accelerate, as well as the pace of conflict in Iraq. "Although the burden of the long war is slowly beginning to shift to a more balanced approach using all elements of our nation's power," he said, "the road ahead will not be easy, and the stakes couldn't be higher."

The general, both the son and father of soldiers, quoted former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Creighton Abrams as saying, "People are not in the Army, they are the Army."

"My four years as Army chief have only affirmed that soldiers are our greatest strength because war is fought in human dimensions, and the men and women both in and out of uniform who are willing to put their boots on the ground are absolutely essential," he said.

Schoomaker said that while the technology of the Army has changed in its nearly 232-year history, the dedication to duty, patriotism and steely-eyed resolve of its soldiers has not.

"I have looked into the eyes of today's warriors, and I am proud to report that they continue to exceed every expectation for courage, dedication and selfless service," he said. "They are the heart of all we do; they are our future."

"Our Army is strong today and every soldier is a warrior because of your vision and leadership," Casey told Schoomaker during the ceremony.

Casey, who has spent 30 months as the commander of forces in Iraq, said that U.S. combat veterans have been baptized by fire and blood, but they have come out as strong as steel. He said he takes great pride in now being their leader.

He said the next decade will likely be one of persistent conflict. "We've been at war for over five years, fighting for our freedom, our security and our future as a nation," Casey said. "We have made hard sacrifices, and we will be called on to make more."

Casey said the quality of the men and women of the Army is the best he's seen in his 36 years of service. "The remarkable men and women of our all-volunteer force, supported by their families, are a national treasure and will be cared for accordingly," he said.

He added that soldiers' care and quality of life should be commensurate with the magnificent service they render the American people. "I want to renew my personal commitment to ensure these standards are met and maintained for our soldiers, civilians and their families," Casey said.

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