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Image of Pentagon oval   United States Department of Defense.
News Transcript

Presenter: General George W. Casey, Army Vice Chief Of Staff; Lieutenant General Richard Cody, Deputy Chief Of Staff For Operations And Plans; Lieutenant General James R. Helmly, Chief, Army Reserve; and Lieutenant General Roger C. Schultz, Chief, National Guard Bureau
Thursday, April 15, 2004 2:56 p.m. EDT

Special Defense Department Briefing

GEN. CASEY: I'm General George Casey. I'm the vice chief of staff of the Army. With me today I have Lieutenant General Dick Cody, who is our operations director -- I think you're all familiar with him; Lieutenant General Roger Schultz, the Chief of our Army National Guard; and Lieutenant General Ron Helmly, the Chief of our Reserve.

If I could just make a couple of comments here, and then we'll take your questions.

First of all, like the Secretary, I'd like just to take the opportunity to extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of our service members, coalition service members, and civilians who have died or are missing in Iraq. They are in our thoughts and prayers daily.

As the Secretary said, approximately 20,000 Army soldiers have been extended for 90 days past the 12 months boots-on-the-ground date in Iraq. These decisions, as you also heard, are not decisions that are taken lightly. The decisions impact about 40 total units. They are combat, combat support, and combat service support units, and they are both in Iraq and in Kuwait. As you also heard, the majority of these units are active component units, primarily focused on the larger units, the 1st Armored Division from Germany, and the 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment from Fort Polk Louisiana.

Q Could you just briefly give us the numbers for the two units out of the 20,000? The 1st Armored --

GEN. CASEY: The 1st Armored Division --

Q The 1st Armored and the 2nd, how many troops?

GEN. CASEY: The 2nd Light Cavalry was the second one.

Q How many troops from the 1st Armored and how many from the 2nd Cavalry, in a round figure?

GEN. CODY: About 11,000 because there's two brigades out of the 1st Armored Division, sir, because one brigade, as you know from 1st Armored is back at Fort Riley.

Q And the 2nd Cav?

GEN. CODY: The 2nd Cav is about 3,100 to 3,200.

Q Thank you.

GEN. CASEY: There are also small contingents from three other bases; Fort Bragg, Fort Lewis and Fort Drum. By small, less than 200 from each of those bases.

There are around 6,000 Guardsmen and Reservists that will be extended, from over 20 states.

Again, all of these forces are provided in response to the request of the combatant commander. And we have been moving already to notify the families -- first notify the units at home station, and help them notify the families. So the families are already in the process of being notified. And all of our major commands are working together with the families to mitigate the impacts on them.

I know there's always questions about, you know, how do the soldiers really feel about this. And I know some of you saw Marty Dempsey's letter, but some of you haven't. But I think he captures the sentiment that's felt not only by him, but by all the soldiers.

He says, "We're being called to finish the fight against Madhi army south of Baghdad." He says, "I know you're all eager to get home. I am too. But not if it means allowing one thug to replace another. We've worked too hard here to watch that happen."

One of the elements of the soldier's creed, which every one of our soldiers embraces, is that I'll always place the mission first. And that's what's happened here. The soldiers understand that. They're disappointed. But that's the way it is and that's how our soldiers feel. Mission first.

These are tough times. We're asking a lot of our people and of their families. And we appreciate the support of the American people and we appreciate their sacrifices.


Q General Casey --

GEN. CASEY: Go ahead.

Q Could you provide us with a list of the 20 states involved? And also, specifically, not counting the 1st MEF -- the Marines still consider every one of their people a combatant -- of the Army, how many -- in rough figures, how many of the soldiers in Iraq now are combatants, quote-unquote, and how many are support people? Can you give me that figure? Public Affairs usually refuses or cannot find them.

GEN. CASEY: Yeah, I don't have that number off the top of my head here.

GEN. CODY: I'd give it a swag but wouldn't get it right. I'll get our PAO people -- the numbers for you.

Q Well, that's been a failure so far, General, but, I mean, I wish you well. (Laughter.)

GEN. CASEY: I have the numbers. I'll get it to him.

Q Thank you very much.

Q The Secretary said that if this level of force -- 135,000 -- is needed past 90 days that other forces would come in from elsewhere in the world. And I know you probably don't want to talk about particular units, but are we talking again a mixture of active and Reserve? And if so, any sense when you'll start notifying those people?

GEN. CASEY: I think the Vice Chairman also said that these solutions are actively being worked right now, and they have not been decided. So I wouldn't want to speculate on that.

Q General, if I could follow on that slightly, on Tom's question. As you know, a lot of the coalition partners, which the Secretary and others have described as important contributors and allies in the cause -- their commitments are due to end in June and July and August. Spain has already announced that it is likely to pull out. Have you guys decided which units will replace them when they leave, if they leave? I don't expect you to name them, because I know you'll say it's a hypothetical, but the reality is a couple thousand are likely to leave, and if they are important, as you all have said, they need to be replaced.

GEN. CASEY: That's a combatant commander call. Us guys here in the Army provide trained and ready forces to him.

Q Right.

GEN. CASEY: So he is the one that will develop that requirement and pass it on to us.

Q He develops the requirement. But, I mean, have you anticipated that possibility, and if so, identified troops for the possible replacement?

GEN. CASEY: Again, I have not heard that particular element directly being applied to the contingency plans that are being made now to replace the current forces that are there.

Q General Casey, if more troops are needed beyond this extension, is bringing in the 3rd ID early off the table?

GEN. CASEY: I don't think anything's off the table. But I wouldn't -- again, we haven't made any decisions.

Q Well, is there any sensitivity to bring in the 3rd ID early to deal with an additional request?

GEN. CASEY: I'm not sure what you mean by sensitivity.

Q I guess -- are they still an option to come in early? I guess they're supposed to come in January, is that right?

GEN. CASEY: That's the current plan, right.

Q Okay. So if more troops are needed after this three months, are they an option on the table?

GEN. CASEY: I think all of the options are on the table with the soldiers that are not currently deployed there in Iraq, and they're sorting those out over the next couple of days here.

Q General, can you talk -- I know you can't get into specifics about what OIF-3 is going to look like now, particularly because of everything that happened this week. But what are the challenges that these contingencies that you're all the sudden having to deal with now are placing on the Army in general and on your planning for OIF-3? How much does this complicate all of your jobs up here to have these sorts of things coming up constantly stretching you?

GEN. CASEY: Well, I wouldn't say it's necessarily constantly. But we're at war and there are changes that result of actions that the enemies take. And so we constantly adapt to that. The combatant commander looks at what he needs, pushes them up to us, and we adapt.

As everybody, including me, that's been up here has said, the combatant commander will get the forces that he needs.

Now, does that have ripple effects on the Army? Sure it does. But we don't change our plans -- we do contingency planning, but we don't change our plans until decisions are made. So I think that answers your question there.

Q Sort of. But I guess what I'm trying to get at is how far are you stretched and how much farther can you be stretched before the rubber band just snaps? That's --

GEN. CASEY: This allocation of forces right here causes us -- doesn't cause us to make any changes to our long-term plans, okay? And we'll continue to evaluate the contingencies and their impacts on our long-term plans as they come up.

Behind you, right there.

Q Could you all take a crack at the question that we were asking the Secretary when he left? Just from a purely military perspective, if in the lead-up to the changeover you all anticipated an increase in violence, why does this decision to add to the forces that are there have to be made in such -- sort of like a patchwork, after the fact?

What was missing? What bit of information didn't you have? And obviously, I mean, the thing that's sort of behind all this is the idea of Rumsfeld and a need for him for transformation and wanting to do things with smaller, lighter, leaner forces. So there's this thing going on in punditry where everyone is second-guessing you, and I'd like to give you a chance to sort of lay out why now.

GEN. CASEY: I think the short answer -- well, could I take a crack at it? I think the answer is no. But that's not why we're up here.

Q Right. All right.

GEN. CASEY: I thought you did a good job for what it's worth. (Laughter.)

Go ahead.

Q Just a quick question. Violence is on the rise and also still Saddam loyalists are there, and even the U.N. is afraid and scared of going into Iraq. How much do you think the families here should worry about their loved ones serving there?

GEN. CASEY: How much do I think the families of the loved ones there -- ? Their families understand that their family members are in a combat zone, and with that combat zone that there are inherent risks. I think the families recognize that.

Q Do they have proper equipment and properly -- as what they need to fight and what they need to protect themselves and the --

GEN. CASEY: They do.

Q -- international community?

GEN. CASEY: They do. And I think, as everybody here knows, we are continually -- we are continuing to improve the force protection equipment that the soldiers there need to operate.

Q General Abizaid earlier in the week described his request as one of -- for a strong, mobile combat capability. How do these three brigades' worth of Army troops meet that goal? Are there any force enhancements besides up-armored Humvees? I'm thinking, you know, UAVs or any other capabilities to make this a strong, mobile combat capability?

GEN. CASEY: Well, the heart of this formation is the 1st Armored Division, which is -- and two of its armored brigades, which are Bradley and tanks primarily, although for this particular mission they've been given some up-armored Humvees. The 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment is a light Humvee, largely Humvee-mounted force. Again, they are all mobile operational forces.

Q Yes, but you're not complimenting them with any additional capabilities that they didn't already have in Iraq, like more helicopters or even Air Force assets?

GEN. CASEY: No, I don't --

GEN. CODY: No, the only thing we have done, to show the flexibility of the plan that was in place, is we have moved Strykers and shopped them to the 1st Armored Division. And the commander on the ground, General Sanchez, has reallocated his combat capability throughout the region to deal with the threats that they see out there. So he has a very, very mobile force that he's repositioned.

Q How many Strykers?

GEN. CODY: I won't comment on that, but he has moved Strykers in.

Q General Casey, can I ask you -- I understand that the actual number of troops in Iraq will be determined by the situation on the ground as things go forward over the next couple of years, but as you plan, how many years in advance do you plan? And worst-case scenario, how many troops do you calculate could be needed in Iraq?

GEN. CASEY: You've talked about this before. Basically we do force planning here, not related to what's going on the ground. And our force planning assumptions have been that OIF-3 will equal OIF-2. And that allows us to identify, train and prepare forces.

The combatant commander is continually updating his assessment of what he needs, so periodically before we commit those forces, he comes in and says, "Okay, I think I need them," or "I don't need that many," or, as in this case, "I need to hold on to what I have here a little longer than I had originally anticipated. But again, as you suggested, we here in the Army have to look out a lot longer so that we can line the units up and make sure they're properly prepared.

Q (Off mike) -- the specific number of years that you look ahead as to number of troops that you anticipate could be needed.

GEN. CASEY: We're looking out two rotations, right, 3 and 4?

GEN. CODY: Yes, sir. We're looking out at least two rotations right now.

Q So that's two more years.

GEN. CODY: Yeah. Let me make a real quick comment.

Q And -- excuse me, sir. And how many troops?

GEN. CODY: It's based upon -- Operation Iraqi Freedom 3, we made the assumption that it would look like 2, and we said if we had to another rotation it would look like 3. And that is just for a model so we could war-game. But let me make --

Q So that's 115,000 and --

GEN. CODY: It's about 105[,000] to 115,000. And we also have to do it for Afghanistan.

To the question about more forces needed, we set up this rotation, OIF-2 rotation. And what you have here is, the division that's replacing the 1st Cav Division -- excuse me -- the 1st Armored Division was the 1st Cav Division. Not all of their troops have closed. Some of them are still moving in, as the Secretary has stated. We still have not completed the entire OIF-2 rotation to replace 1.

The enemy gets a vote sometimes in picking out when he decides he wants to raise the level of violence, and we deal with it. He happened to pick it out before the transfer of authority between the 1st Cav and the 1st Armored Division. And the plan was flexible enough to be able to sustain those forces, and that's really what General Abizaid has done. During this transition phase, he's decided that he requires an extension of those troops while we're still doing it.

Now the transfer of authority was effective today, but that -- not all the troops of the 1st Cav have fully moved up into their positions.

STAFF: Can we have one last question? One last question, sir.

Q What happens to a soldier in his 12th, 13th, 14th month in a combat zone? Are there any health, any morale issues you guys are looking at related --

Q Retention.

Q -- retention --

Q Retention.

Q -- that's a good one, too. And in addition, 20,000 more troops than initially planned for -- does that create any logistical issues -- supplies, extra supplies that are having to go over there?

GEN. CASEY: Yeah. I go back to Marty Dempsey's memo. I mean, frankly, the first thing the soldier says when he's told he's been extended -- he probably says -- (makes a noise) --

Q (Laughs.)

GEN. CASEY: -- or words to that effect. (Laughter.)

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. CASEY: I mean, everybody's disappointed. The division commander says, "I know you're eager to go home. I am too." I mean, that -- people are disappointed.

Okay. Does it create morale problems? Depends on the strength of the unit. These guys will always place the mission first. Every soldier understands that, and that --

Q Does it affect their ability to fight?

GEN. CASEY: It depends -- it's unit-dependent. But I will tell you, the folks who have been there for a year, they understand the environment, they're very skilled, and the short answer to that is, in most cases, absolutely not.

You asked --

Q (Off mike.)

GEN. CASEY: You asked about logistical questions, impacts of this. I talked to our -- the deputy commander in Kuwait and asked the same question: Are there any logistical challenges caused by this extension? And his answer was, there was nothing significant right now; they were dealing with everything.

There was a question back there on cost. If you look at the costs, you're keeping around 20,000 soldiers there longer, it will slightly increase the costs by the cost of supporting those 20,000 folks.

Q And retention?

GEN. CASEY: Still, you know, remains to be seen. But as we look across the Army, the active force is meeting its retention goals. We're on target for the year. The National Guard is well above -- it's up there at a hundred and thirty- --

STAFF: Hundred thirty-seven.

GEN. CASEY: -- hundred thirty-seven percent of their objective, and the Reserve is well above 90 percent. So we're doing okay right now.

STAFF: (Off mike) -- above 90 percent of their goal.

GEN. CASEY: Right.

Q I guess one thing that you hear from some soldiers is they feel kind of jerked around. That there were some 1st Armored Division soldiers, for example, that are already back in Germany; some were in Kuwait and then they were pulled back in. I mean, it's this sort of haphazard last-minute kind of thing that I think gets families upset.

GEN. CASEY: Sure, sure it is. I mean --

Q So how many were back in Germany, how many in Kuwait --

GEN. CASEY: I don't know -- I know there are soldiers who are in advance parties that had gone back to prepare for the arrival of the main body that got back to Germany. But they're being called back. Does it jerk them around? Sure, it does. Okay? But again, it's what the mission requires right now.

Thanks a lot. We appreciate it.


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