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CASAs learn about life on JBLM as part of their annual conference

20th Public Affairs Detachment

Published: 05:05PM June 26th, 2014

Sixty-eight civilian aides to the secretary of the Army, CASAs, met at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Monday for their 59th annual conference. CASAs represent the 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia.

They give the secretary of the Army feedback on their communities’ perceptions of the Army, while working with individual service members and their families to help improve their quality of life, said Laura DeFrancisco, director of the CASA program.

“Every year, we try to take the CASAs to a different Army installation so they can learn a different mission and learn something new about the Army; because wherever they are, they get to know that area very, very well,” DeFrancisco said. “They can take that back to their communities and have a little more knowledge and understanding about the Army, more than just what’s in their area.”

This year’s three-day conference kicked off at the American Lake Conference Center on Lewis North with an overview of I Corps’ functions, capabilities and its new focus on the Pacific; presented by Lt. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, I Corps commanding general.

CASAs next visited the joint base’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Resource Center to learn the Army’s strategies for protecting Soldiers from assault and harassment.

Afterward, aides from east of the Mississippi River ate lunch at Arrowhead Inn, while from those west of the Mississippi went to Courage Inn. If CASAs wondered about the separation, there questions were soon answered upon arriving to find Soldiers from their home areas waiting to eat with them.

“We had a great time talking about home, about family and about their future in the military,” said Tracy Beckette, retired brigadier general and CASA for eastern Missouri, who had lunch with two Soldiers from the St. Louis area.

CASAs then resumed the JBLM tour, which ended at McChord Field with a demonstration of I Corps and 62nd Airlift Wing’s joint expeditionary capabilities via a Stryker manned by Soldiers, with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, boarding an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Some CASAs followed the Soldiers onto the aircraft and took a short flight to Gray Army Airfield.

The C-17 flight was Beckette’s favorite part of the day, he said.

“I had never been in (a C-17) before,” Beckette said. “I’ve always wanted to see how they operate, so that was pretty exciting.”

More demonstrations awaited the CASAs when they landed; including rides in 3rd Bde. Stryker vehicles, weapons displays by 1st Special Forces Group and helicopter displays by the Washington Army National Guard.

Beckette, who served 34 years, including an assignment at I Corps, said the tour and displays offered a reassuring view of the military’s capabilities.

“I’m very upbeat about ... the young men and women that we have (in the military),” Beckette said. “They’re well trained, (and) they have a good sense of what their mission is.”