The Army general poised to take command of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq said he’s learned many things during his time at Fort Leavenworth — most importantly, how to look for adaptive solutions to problems.
Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr. served as the commander of the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth for about 18 months. Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins has been selected for promotion to lieutenant general and as Caslen’s successor on Fort Leavenworth.
“This is the intellectual center of the Army, so this job has challenged me more than any other job I’ve had in the Army,” Caslen said. “… Because when you work for a guy like (then-Training and Doctrine Command commander) General (Martin E.) Dempsey, who is tremendously intellectual, he really brings all of us out of our comfort zone to look at different ways to solve problems.”
Caslen said the Office of Security Cooperation will take over when U.S. Forces-Iraq leaves at the end of 2011 for the troop drawdown. The office’s role will require partnerships, especially to support the governing nation of Iraq.
“The problems we’re experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan are not problems that require Department of Defense lethal solutions,” he said. “They’re problems that require, frankly, whole-of-government and indigenous partnering and coalition and joint solutions. And some of those solutions aren’t even known yet. And we’re going to come to those solutions by the intellectual power of our organizations.”
Part of finding those solutions, Caslen said, is creating a command climate that allows his subordinates to challenge his ideas and present new ones.
“If this job has helped me with anything with my next job, it’s taught me how to think and how to develop the right command climate that allows intellectual growth to occur,” he said.
The changing command climate was one of Caslen’s areas of focus as CAC commander. A Mission Command Center of Excellence was stood up at Fort Leavenworth during his time here. Additionally, the Battle Command Training Program — the Army’s only worldwide deployable combat training center — was renamed the Mission Command Training Program.
Caslen said the change in doctrine from command and control and battle command changed to mission command because the previous terms did not adequately describe what commanders have been doing on the battlefield for the last 10 years.
“Prior to 9-11, a commander was successful if they amassed combat power at the decisive point on a battlefield to defeat an enemy formation or seize key terrain,” he said. “But that is just one small part of what a commander has to do today, because a commander has to be effective — has to really understand the incredible complexity of the environment, and then has to develop the vision of how to deal with it.”
Commanders must build teams not only among joint formations, but coalition teams, interagency teams and teams with the governing nation, Caslen said.
“And the skill set to do that is totally different than the skill set that we had back in the 1990s,” he said.
Other changes during Caslen’s time at CAC include a greater emphasis on leader development and the changes in modern training. Because of this new intellectual requirement in the Army, Caslen said he sees Fort Leavenworth and CAC’s role growing in the future.
“We are an Army in transition, and we’re transitioning for two reasons,” Caslen said. “Principle among those is the fact that there’s huge budget problems, and we’re going to see some physical draw downs — it’s just a reality; we’re already seeing some. We’re going to be transitioning because we’re coming out of Iraq and we’re going to begin the process of coming out of Afghanistan, so that means we’ve got to really think about how this transition is going to occur, and leaders are going to have to get involved.”
Just as he has encouraged students in the Command and General Staff College to do, Caslen used some of his time at Fort Leavenworth to relax with family and friends and enjoy activities. He enjoyed golfing, hunting and was able to take his wife, Shelly, out on date nights. He shot two deer during his time here. He and Brig. Gen. Paul E. Funk II had a hunting dog team with Maverick, a German shorthair pointer, and bagged three birds at the Fort Leavenworth Rod and Gun Club spring hunting dog competition earlier this year.
Caslen has three sons who are an Army officer, a fireman and a federal law enforcement officer.
Caslen said Fort Leavenworth would be in good hands with its next commander, David Perkins.
“It’s going to be an exciting time to be at Fort Leavenworth,” he said. “General Perkins will also love the job and the role that he’s going to be playing in where the Army’s going in the future.”