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Graduate School of Professional Psychology
The Sturm Specialty in Military Psychology

Interview with General George W. Casey, Jr.

(U.S. Army, Retired)

General Casey


University of Denver, 1980

"I hope for the day when all service members see mental fitness as part of being a good Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, and for the day when there is no stigma associated with getting behavioral health care."


"As the 36th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, you focused attention to behavioral health initiatives and family services for Service Members and Veterans by increasing the funding for Soldier and Family Programs while also improving the way the Army cared for its Wounded Soldiers and Surviving Family Members. What attracted you to behavioral and mental health issues with this population? From your perspective, why is this an important issue?"

General Casey: "When I returned from Iraq in 2007—where I saw first-hand the impact of combat on our servicemen and women and their leaders, it quickly became apparent to me that an increasing number of soldiers weren't able to deploy because of behavioral health issues. As I looked into what we were doing at the time, I found that we had a number of programs to identify behavioral health issues in soldiers and even more to treat them, but we only had one, not widely used, program to prepare them mentally for the rigors of combat.

Driven by my experience in Iraq, I determined that we owed our soldiers better, and I set out to establish an Army-wide program to give every soldier the skills they needed to better deal with the stresses that they would encounter while deployed. With the help of Dr. Marty Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania, we put together and implemented a program called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) that 1) gave soldiers a readout on their strengths and weaknesses in the four key areas of mental fitness—social, emotional, family and spiritual—through an on-line self-assessment; 2) provided on-line self-help modules to allow them to work on their weaknesses privately; and 3) trained sergeants to become Master Resilient Trainers to continue resilience training at the unit level.

It wasn't easy to get a program like this going in the Army because of the stigma associated with behavioral health care. Indeed, when I got to the Army, 90% of the men and women in the Army wouldn't get behavioral health care for a problem because they felt it would hurt their career—90%!!! In the CSF program, we made mental fitness part of being a good soldier and this did a lot to move soldiers to get the care they needed. By the time I left the Army, four years later, only 50% said they wouldn't get behavioral health care for a problem because they felt it would harm their career."

GSPP: "What stands out to you about GSPP's mental and behavioral health work with Veterans, Service Members, and families as you've learned about the program?"

General Casey: "I think the elements of the GSPP's work with the military that stand out to me the most are the focus on resilience, coping, and on understanding the operational climate of the service members, veterans and families GSPP is assisting. It is very important for the service/family member to develop a quick rapport with the counsellor. Knowing that your counsellor understands the environment you come from is critically important. I am also a firm believer that you can train people to be more resilient and, as a result, cope better with life's challenges. It's the best preventive measure we have."

GSPP: "GSPP's Sturm Specialty in Military Psychology expands evidence-based academic training for students, increases access to behavioral and mental health services and supports military and Veterans-focused community-based groups—creating a comprehensive system of training and care. At the same time, it provides national leadership with the latest research, best practices and thought leadership around Military and Veteran issues. What does it mean to you to have your alma mater forging forward as a national leader in this space?"

General Casey: "I am extremely proud of the work that GSPP is doing in this area. It is in keeping with DU's move to become a national university."

GSPP: "Finally, what are your hopes for the landscape of mental and behavioral health in the U.S. Military and where do you see DU in this vision?"

General Casey: "I hope for the day when all service members see mental fitness as part of being a good Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, and for the day when there is no stigma associated with getting behavioral health care. I hope for the day when service/family members are comfortable coming forward to get the care they need when they need it. I hope for the day that this same attitude is accepted across our society."


Read General George W. Casey, Jr.'s Biography

General George Casey enjoyed a 41-year career in the US Army following his graduation from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in 1970. He is an accomplished soldier and an authority on strategic leadership.

As the Army Chief of Staff from 2007-2011, he led one of our largest and most complex organizations during one of the most extraordinary periods in our history. He is widely credited with restoring balance to a war-weary Army and leading the transformation to keep it relevant in the 21st Century. Prior to this, from July 2004 to February 2007, he commanded the Multi-National Force – Iraq, a coalition of more than 30 countries where he guided the mission through its toughest days.

Currently, he lectures internationally on leadership to the leaders of national and multinational corporations, at the Johnson School of Management, Cornell University, and at other business schools. He also teaches international relations at the Korbel School. He is the Chairman of the Board of the USO, and serves on the board of Georgetown University and on numerous boards of organizations that support our servicemen and women, our veterans and their families.

He holds a Masters Degree in International Relations from the University of Denver, and served as a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council of the United States. He has published a book, Strategic Reflections, Operation Iraqi Freedom, July 2004-2007 (October 2012), about his experiences in Iraq, and several articles on leadership, including: "Leading in a VUCA World", Fortune Magazine (March 20, 2014).


The Sturm Specialty in Military Psychology is proudly supported by:
 The Sturm Family Foundation