Spotting Gen. Ray Odierno in the sea of about 500 people at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center last Wednesday was easy.
He was the tall guy: 6-foot-6 to be exact.
Although I had seen him in countless photos, videos and read his name plenty of times, I had never seen the Army’s chief of staff in person before. He was speaking at a meeting of the local chapter of the Association of the United States Army. It was clear the crowd was very fond him, offering the general long applauses and a standing ovation.
Odierno, a 1976 West Point graduate, spent a lot of time at Fort Hood, including stints as the 4th Infantry Division commander and later as the III Corps and Fort Hood commander.
He spoke about the growing community, getting in a “traffic jam” in Killeen on his way to the meeting and the role Fort Hood played in caring for military children.
However, what I found most interesting about Odierno’s speech was his crystal clear way of describing the modern Army and the challenges it faces. As tall as Odierno is, his wise words rise above him. He has a special gift of describing the problems the Army is facing in a way everyone can understand.
He talked about the downsizing of the Army and increasing threats that pop up all over the world, like Yemen.
As many at Fort Hood already know, Odierno said we have troops in Europe, Afghanistan, Korea and dozens of other countries that can become heated at any time.
“That’s what we’re facing as an Army,” he said.
With cuts to funding and personnel, Army readiness is down to 33 percent, and Odierno said he doesn’t see it getting better in the next few years.
I applaud Odierno’s efforts to bring awareness to these Army issues, and I hope Congress and President Barack Obama are listening.
Hopefully, the nation’s leaders will wake up and smell the coffee before Odierno retirees, which I’ve heard will be sometime later this year. That’s too bad, because Odierno is quite a spokesman for the Army.
I predict, however, that once he retires, Odierno won’t be finished with paving the way for military policy.
I think he’d make a great congressman or U.S. senator.
And I know people around here would vote for him, including me.
Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the Fort Hood Herald editor and military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. He was stationed at Fort Hood and served with the 1st Cavalry Division from 1993 to 1996. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.