Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, in Fort Hood, Texas, to counsel troops in the aftermath of Thursday’s shootings, told Charles Gibson in an exclusive interview that the Army is stretched thin, but the ongoing drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan will relieve rising stress levels.
“We are deploying at a rate that we can’t sustain. So we are stretched and have been stretched for about five years. However, we have been increasing the size of the army and we’re 40,000 soldiers bigger than we were just two and a half years ago, and that has a positive impact on us,” he said.
“As the drawdown in Iraq continues, our projections are that the time the soldiers spend at home is going to increase and stress will come down.”
Casey, who was the top U.S. commander in Iraq for three years, flew to Fort Hood, Tex., Friday morning, along with his wife Sheila, to visit with some of the victims. Thirteen people were killed and 34 more were shot when the alleged gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire in a room crowded with hundreds of soldiers.
“I’m just unusually proud to be in charge of this Army,” Casey told Gibson. “The heroism that came out yesterday in that horrible incident really helps us draw strength from the adversity of this terrible event.”
He praised the heroic work of “medics who were running in their caps and gowns” to help those in need and soldiers who attempted to subdue the alleged shooter.
“It was buddies helping buddies, they went in there dragged their buddies out, helped them, got them to the hospital,” Casey said. “…It was soldiers helping soldiers and it was just remarkable, but that’s what happens across our army.”
Casey told Gibson that victims he visited were visibly stressed, but that the Army is standing by to ensure that families on the installation receive the best care.
“We’re moving large numbers of incident stress management teams here and behavioral health providers, because this is not going to be a quick fix here. …It’s going to take us some weeks here to get through,” Casey said. “But I want the folks to know here that the full resources of the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense are behind the community here at Ft. Hood.”
When asked how he to reassure soldiers overseas that families are safe here, Casey said: “This is one person out of an army of a million …I have great confidence in our soldiers and in times of crisis like this, this army family comes together and we’ll get through this.”