Army chief of staff visits Fort Lewis soldiers

Army chief of staff visits Fort Lewis soldiers
FORT LEWIS, Wash. -- As President Barack Obama headed overseas to encourage U.S. troops, the U.S. Army's top general visited the Fort Lewis Army Base in hopes of inspiring soldiers stationed at the base.

"This is the second time I've been to Fort Lewis in 6 months and every time I come, the sun is out. What's all this talk about rain?" said Gen. George Casey, the Army's Chief of Staff, on Tuesday.

A world away, commander in chief paid a surprise visit to the troops in Baghdad. Many in the crowd greeting Obama are from the Fort Lewis First Corps who have just taken over command in support of all combat troops in Iraq.

"Can you imagine to a new corps that's just been on the job a few days to have the commander in chief come in on your first few days? I'm sure they found that very uplifting," said Casey.

The general's visit comes just a day after the defense secretary announced cutbacks to Boeing's F22 and C-17 military aircraft programs.

Even though Boeing may see cutbacks in the military budget, Casey said as far as the troops and their families are concerned, the Army is being taken care of.

"So I think the soldiers and families ought to know that there may be things going on elsewhere in the defense budget. But funding for them is still going to be there," he said.

Casey said there is an extra $13 billion the budget for health care with an emphasis on mental health care.

"I've talked candidly with the leaders and with the families and the soldiers about what we can do to reduce the stigma that's attached to seeking mental health counseling," he said.

The Army chief of staff told Fort Lewis soldiers they can soon look forward to more time between deployments - a full year next year, then a year and a half in 2011. He said the troops need more of breather as the fighting begins to shift from Iraq to Afghanistan.

"And you ought to be very proud of what you do for this country," he said.