Congratulations, General Odierno

Illustration by David Morris using file photos

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Gen. Raymond T. Odierno had great credibility in the city of Baghdad as head of Multinational Corps-Iraq, and in some respects, it was as if he never left when he returned there this summer, said Maj. Gen. Jeffery W. Hammond, 4th Infantry Division commander.

Odierno was serving as the No. 2 commander in Iraq early this year when it was announced he was nominated for his fourth star and appointment to be the next Army vice chief of staff, replacing Gen. Richard Cody.

The then-lieutenant general, who served as III Corps and Fort Hood commander since May 2006, led the corps Headquarters to Iraq in late 2006, where it served for 15 months. Those soldiers returned to Fort Hood in mid-February.

It was later announced that Odierno would instead be recommended to replace Gen. David Petraeus as the head of U.S. Central Command — top commander in Iraq. Not only would he get his fourth star, he would go back to the Middle East — less than 9 months after returning.

“Iraq has undergone significant change in the last several months and we seek to build on the positive developments,” he said in a July statement released by the Fort Hood and III Corps Public Affairs Office. “We are also fully aware that continuing to move forward will entail a great deal of work. I have great faith and pride in the extraordinary strengths of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians in Iraq who have served and are serving valiantly. I return to Iraq with optimism and will serve our nation and troops to the utmost of my abilities.”

The man

Odierno was the right person to take Petraeus’ place, U.S. Rep. John Carter said in July after Odierno handed III Corps and Fort Hood over to Lt. Gen. Ricky Lynch. Odierno was the one to implement Petraeus’ plan while leading Multinational Corps-Iraq from December 2006 to February 2008, Carter added.

The corps was responsible for planning and executing the troop surge, developing a reconciliation program and changing tactics, techniques and procedures that focused on pushing more units out to the neighborhoods, Odierno told the Herald in March.

“ ... I think we’ve all played a central role in what changes have occurred in Iraq over the last year,” he said.

Odierno also had a hand in an early 2007 announcement that extended deployments from 12 to 15 months. It was a tough decision to make, especially when considering the effects on the families, Odierno said in March.

“But for us to be successful on the ground, we felt it was necessary to have one rotation to be 15 months and we clearly understand the impact (that) had on soldiers and their families as I extended the corps headquarters as well from 12 months to 15 months, so I thought that was a very big decision on the families back here,” he said.

Odierno had a wonderful relationship with people in Baghdad, Hammond, who is currently heading the 4th Infantry-led Multinational Division-Baghdad, said Monday from Baghdad, and the people there continued to know him with great affection.

By returning to Iraq, he reaffirmed his commitment to get things done, Hammond said.

Lt. Col. Darren Werner served with the 4th Infantry when Odierno was its commander. Werner now serves as commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team’s 4th Support Battalion.

“Gen. Odierno is an inspirational leader who has contributed significantly to the security of Iraq,” he said.

He echoed Hammond’s sentiments, saying Odierno’s experience as a former division and corps commander in Iraq would set the best conditions for the government of Iraq to continue to provide security for its people.

The mission

The improvements in Iraq since the brigade deployed to Iraq in February and March are “very noticeable,” Werner said.

“There is a very evident improvement in security for Iraqi citizens and an increased confidence in the Iraqi Security Force’s ability to ensure the security of the population,” he said.

“The improvement can be attributed to the cooperation between the Coalition Forces and the Iraqi Security Forces. The partnerships between the security forces have been a great success and have established an environment throughout the city that enables the average Iraqi the confidence to return to work, school and normalcy.”

It was announced in early December that the government of Iraq and United States signed a security agreement that could lead to a hand-over in 2011. Leaders like Hammond have emphasized that the agreement will not change the troops’ mission, but will shift how they “plan, coordinate and execute missions throughout Iraq,” Odierno said in a Dec. 4 letter to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines Coast Guardsmen and civilians of Multinational Force-Iraq.

The agreement, which goes into affect Jan. 1, read that U.S. forces will continue to carry out combat operations, but they will coordinate and execute those operations with the Iraq government’s approval. New rules of engagement will be issued, but “there will not be any reduction in our fundamental ability to protect ourselves and the force,” the letter stated.

Combat tasks will be conducted with and through Iraqi Security Forces.

“Similarly, we will continue to focus on combating al-Qaida and other extremist groups, but we must do so with respect for the Iraqi Constitution and laws, and we must continue to treat all Iraqi citizens with the utmost dignity and honor,” the letter goes on to state.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at or (254) 501-7547.

Gen. Raymond T. Odierno is a 1976 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. He has served in three key positions at Fort Hood: 1st Cavalry division artillery commander from June 1995 to June 1997, 4th Infantry commander from October 2001 to June 2004, and III Corps and Fort Hood commander from May 2006 to July 2008.

Odierno led the 4th Infantry to Iraq from April 2003 to March 2004 and his soldiers were credited with capturing Saddam Hussein in December 2003. He also led III Corps and Multinational Corps-Iraq from December 2006 to February 2008.

Odierno and his wife, Linda, have two children, so not only has he helped run the war, he’s had to do it balancing life as a husband and father of a former soldier.

It seems as if Fort Hood is a breeding ground for great leaders. Odierno went back to Iraq this year as the top U.S. commander in Iraq. He went there surrounded by soldiers from Central Texas; elements of nearly every Fort Hood unit will serve under Odierno in Iraq.

All eyes are on Odierno as a possible end to the Iraq war, nearing its sixth year, approaches. “Person of the Year” is a title bestowed on someone who has showed outstanding service and support in the previous year, but Odierno is a man whose future decisions are even more important. Odierno has already affected the lives of so many Fort Hood soldiers, families and community members and we’re waiting to see what he has for us next.

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