General picked for key Iraq post was once a New Britain paperboy

NOTE: Front page story

By Brenda Maguire

Forty-five years ago Robert L. Caslen Jr. was just Bob. He was a kid who delivered the New Britain Herald to homes in the city.

How times have changed.

The boy has grown into a 57-year-old man who’s taking on one of the most daunting tasks the U.S. military, and the country, can give him.

He is now Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., wearing three stars on his uniform marking him as one of the U.S. Army’s top commanders.

A New Britain native, Caslen was most recently the commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. But he left this weekend for his new assignment as commander of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq (OSCI), which has about 750 private contractors and 150 military troops. While in Iraq, Caslen knows he will be carrying the lessons he learned as a New Britain Herald paper boy with him.

“I guess there’s been some research done on paperboys and where they end up in society,” Caslen said. “It’s supposedly a good developer of leadership skill.”

Caslen, who lived in New Britain until the summer before the 10th grade, when his family moved to Vermont, said he learned leadership, responsibility, management and business entrepreneurship from working as a paperboy from the ages of 12 to 14.

“I learned right from the beginning the responsibility of having your own business, because that’s what a paperboy is,” Caslen said. “He has his own business and come rain, snow, sleet or whatever, he has to be dependable enough to be there to receive the papers and deliver the papers.”

On July 21 it was announced that President Barack Obama nominated Caslen for reappointment to the rank of lieutenant general and for assignment as commander of the OSCI.

As commander, Caslen will manage the Foreign Military Sales program while in Iraq. This includes all military equipment from M1 Tanks to artillery, fielding of the equipment and new equipment training. The OSCI will also establish a strategic security partnership between the two countries.

Caslen will be taking over his position Oct. 1.

In addition, there is an ongoing discussion between the Iraqi government and the U.S. as to whether or not a residual force should remain after the U.S. military forces are withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011, per the 2008 Security Agreement. It has been reported that the two governments are discussing having up to 10,000 troops stay in Iraq, but the number of troops is still undecided.

The residual force would remain for training purposes to fix security gaps that the Iraqis might need further assistance with.

“If one remains, I will have oversight of their operations as well. In other words, I’ll be responsible for all remaining military forces in Iraq,” Caslen said.

He will report to the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James R. Jeffrey because Foreign Military Sales is actually a program managed by the Department of State and not the Department of Defense.

In 2008, Caslen was deployed to Iraq to command the Multi-National Division-North where he was responsible for the troops in Iraq’s seven most northern provinces.

He attributes much of the sense of responsibility, leadership and duty he has to working for the Herald. These traits influenced his high school career, where he was student body president and was on the track and football team. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point recruited Caslen to play football for them and he graduated in 1975.

When Caslen moved to Vermont, New Britain was searching for its identity while manufacturing in the city was being outsourced. The last time Caslen visited New Britain was about two years ago when he was visiting his Aunt Arlene Reed. The growth of the city was not lost on him.

“When I went through just a couple years ago, it appeared that New Britain was reviving,” Caslen said. “I think they established an identity and the downtown looked a lot better. I was pleased with that.

“I always consider New Britain, Connecticut, my hometown and it was a great place to be.”

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