CASA Conference / South Region / January 29-31, 2019

The South Region Civilian Aids to the Secretary of the Army (CASA) held their every two-year meeting in Miami, FL in late January.   Honored guest was Ms. Kathleen Miller, Administrative Assistant to the SecArmy.

The first day’s sessions were held at U.S. Southern Command Headquarters.  Our first speaker was MG Patricia Aslow, Chief of Staff, SOUTHCOM.  The Command guides all U.S. military activity in the Southern Hemisphere (including the Caribbean).  The AOR begins south of Mexico and includes 31 countries, with a population of 476-million people (20% of whom are chronically poor), occupying 1/6 of the earth’s land.  Mexico is within NORTHCOM’s AOR.

Six-thousand U.S. military personnel are assigned to cover this huge geographic area.  They work, in conjunction with our partnering countries in Central and South America, to stop criminal networks involved with drugs, terrorism, human and money trafficking.  Our strongest regional partner, at present, is Columbia.

It’s estimated that 2-million people have left Venezuela in the last 12-months, with as many as 2-million more in the future, migrating both North and South.  China is exerting more and more influence in the region.  In El Salvador, China now owns of its ports.  In Panama, all port services are owned by the Chinese.

Following Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Recruiting, and Corps of Engineers presentations, COL Prescott Ferris, Director of the Army’s Soldier for Life Program (SFL), spoke of the Army’s many programs to provide transitioning soldiers with civilian career preparation, including internships, and career skills training with certifications.  About 55% of soldiers leave the Army after their first term of service.  Prior to the comprehensive SFL efforts, departing soldier unemployment costs were running the Army $500-million per year.  Currently, that annual amount has been reduced to about $92-million, a huge savings of Army dollars that can instead be funneled into readiness, modernization of equipment, and taking care of soldiers and families while serving.  The U.S. Army is the nation’s largest scholarship provider ($60-million/year).  Sixty-percent of soldiers who earn a B.A. degree are the first person in their family to attend college!

The second day of the conference was spent at Homestead Air Force Reserve Base, home to Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH).  Homestead was flattened by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and has been completely rebuilt.  The SOCSOUTH Commander, MG Antonio Fletcher, provided the CASA’s with an overview of the command’s responsibilities, among them, crisis response for Southcom, again in conjunction with AOR partners. Counter-terrorism is the primary focus.  3/160th SOAR (Night Stalkers), stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, is a key support unit available to SOCSOUTH.

Homestead is the winter home of the Army’s Golden Knights.  Four CASAs were able to do a tandem jump with the Knights.  All landed safely.  As a courtesy, no undergarments of the CASA jumpers were inspected for foreign matter upon return to earth.  It was unique, while there, to see Knights dropping from the sky in several areas around the Base.  Quite a treat.

The conference ended with a visit to the U.S. Army’s Trauma Training Detachment, a key, advanced training step toward producing the best military medics “in the world.”  This presentation was held at Miami’s Ryder Trauma Center, in conjunction with the University of Miami School of Medicine.

A very informative conference packed into two full days in Miami.  This year’s national CASA conference will be held in late May in Columbia, SC, in conjunction with Fort Jackson.