Army's Chief of Staff Visits Camp Lemonier
U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George W. Casey, Jr. visited with the service members of Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and Camp Lemonnier for the first time April 23, 2009.
"I am hugely impressed with the scope of the mission here and the impact the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines assigned here are making in this critical region of Africa," said Casey, who had just come from a conference of African, Central Asian and Middle Eastern service chiefs in Kenya this week. He spoke at an all-hands call here.
He said he was staggered by the number of missions service members here are performing and where those missions are being undertaken. He met with military civil affairs specialists and information support teams who have conducted medical and veterinary civil action programs (MedCAP and VetCAP) and military-to-military education benefitting several African countries' noncommissioned officer corps.
Casey said 2009 is the Year of the Non-Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army. "As we looked across the Army at everything we were doing, it was clear to us it was the noncommissioned officers who were providing the glue that was holding this force together at a difficult time. I see that same spirit here."
The last time the Army officially recognized the NCO Corps as an entity was in 1989. The Army had just completed two decades of restructuring and empowering noncommissioned officers in the wake of the Vietnam War.
Casey discussed the defense budget, acquisition reform, the mission of the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), Army rotational cycles and recruiting changes, stop-loss, re-enlistment options, and joint-service recognition for soldiers assigned to CJTF-HOA.
Camp Lemonnier, an expeditionary base, is the only U.S. military infrastructure on the African continent and supports personnel and operations throughout the continent. Camp Lemonnier has roughly 2,400 military members and contract civilians assigned. Soldiers here include the Army's 2-18th Field Artillery Regiment and the several Civil Affairs units; several hundred Soldiers in all.
Soldiers' missions here range from force protection to construction projects in remote areas and support of the joint task force headquartered here. CJTF-HOA operates in and with 15 East African nations.
"This is a classic example of American service men and women reaching out and touching people and armed forces in other countries around the world," he said.
He added that he would carry the message of the soldiers and their missions in Africa back to Washington with him.
"I, frankly, didn't appreciate the scope of what you all are doing here," Casey said. "I am greatly impressed. I want to thank the men and women of CJTF-HOA for the contributions they are making. I know it is difficult being separated from your families; but there is something uniquely American about the willingness to serve selflessly to help others. It makes you proud to be an American."