The Army’s recently adopted view that strong military families translate into strong soldiers was evident Monday during a visit to Fort Stewart by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr.; his wife, Sheila Casey; and Vice President Joe Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden.
As Gen. Casey met with installation leaders and participated in a Purple Heart and Flying Cross award ceremony, Mrs. Casey and Dr. Biden toured Joseph Martin Elementary School in the morning and met with Army spouses and fallen soldiers’ family members that afternoon. The three also visited Warriors Walk.
The Caseys and Biden ended their whirlwind tour with a brief news conference on the grounds of the 3rd Infantry Division headquarters before departing in a helicopter to Hunter Army Airfield, where they caught a flight back to Washington, D.C.
The trio focused on such issues as the stress military families experience from multiple deployments, medical and survivor benefits, education and other programs that help make military service members and their dependents more resilient.
Gen. Casey said as of Oct. 1, active duty soldiers who complete a one-year deployment would receive two years of dwell time and reservists would receive up to four years dwell time after a one-year deployment.
"We’re finally getting to a point where we can breath," he said. The general added the 3rd Infantry Division is not currently on "a patch chart," meaning the division is not scheduled now for any deployments. However, Casey added world events are unpredictable and if the need arises, any unit could be called up.
At a spouses’ luncheon at Club Stewart on Monday, Biden was introduced as an Army mom and a teacher. Biden teaches at a community college near the White House.
She told soldiers and their spouses she could relate to their sacrifices, as her son, Beau, recently returned from a 12-month deployment to Iraq with the Delaware Army National Guard.
"I know what that feels like," Biden said. "I know what every day feels like during a deployment."
Mrs. Casey said she has been an Army spouse for 39 years.
"In three years I’ve never seen an administration like this that has spoken up and talked about issues (unique) to military families," Casey said.
Both say they have joined First Lady Michelle Obama in efforts to improve the lives of military families.
"We’re going to bases; we’re listening to families," Biden said.
Christi Milton, wife of Fort Stewart garrison commander Col. Kevin Milton, said if wives like Biden and Casey know about Fort Stewart spouses’ concerns, "then the husbands will know."
Milton said she had met Casey several times before, and has attended leadership training for Army spouses. The colonel’s wife said Casey is an excellent role model for Army spouses of any age or soldier’s rank.
"(Casey) is very comfortable to be around," Milton said. "She doesn’t stand behind a podium. She sits and talks with us."
Milton agreed longer dwell times are better for soldiers’ families.
"It would really facilitate the families coming back together after a deployment," she said.
Milton said she hoped Casey and Biden’s visit would help spotlight Fort Stewart’s family support programs and encourage greater participation in these programs, particularly during deployments.
"Whenever you have senior people come, if you get a wide range of people coming to them … they will get a (sense) of everything and can see how the installation is doing," she said.