WASHINGTON — Army Chief of Staff and former III Corps and Fort Hood commander Gen. Raymond T. Odierno dismissed claims the branch’s value is decreasing during the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual Eisenhower Luncheon Tuesday.
“There are some who interpret our new national strategy as questioning the relevance of land forces,” he said, referring to speculation about the Army’s diminished role in the Pacific Rim-focused military of the future, as per recent White House and Pentagon guidance, and following budget cuts that will impact the personnel-heavy branch.
“There are others who would wash away a decade’s worth of hard-won sacrifice and expertise with false assumptions about the future. To those, I say the Army was created 237 years ago to defend this great nation and secure the influence of the U.S. abroad. That imperative has not changed.”
Although the security environment has changed greatly during Odierno’s near four decades in uniform, he said, “the nature of conflict has remained constant.” Another constant has been the country’s intervention where needed around the world — frequently in the form of a U.S. soldier.
And that’s not likely to change, Odierno said. Despite the once commonly held belief that globalization would bring peace and security, the general said rapid communication technology has sometimes incited instability and allowed loosely affiliated, non-state actors to take advantage of such power gaps.
To remain effective in this new environment — which includes cyber threats — the Army must match its “’headware’ to (its) hardware,” or train soldiers and leaders to be mentally agile enough to operate across a variety of threat landscapes and carry out a variety of missions.
Army modernization also will involve the increasing ability of units as small as squads to carry out missions on their own, while easily operating within larger units when necessary.
Luncheon a key event at AUSA conference
Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter AUSA representatives visiting Washington, D.C., this week for the national organization’s annual meeting attended the luncheon, one of the week’s key events. Local AUSA public relations chairperson and Heart of Texas Defense Alliance executive director Bill Parry said that while Odierno’s speech contained few specifics about the Army’s fiscal future, it effectively challenged “detractors.”
“Even before (Sept. 11, 2001), there were those who asked why the Army was relevant,” said Parry, a retired Army colonel who served as Fort Hood’s garrison commander on 9/11. “But it’s the Army that’s done an overwhelming amount of work in the conflicts since. … Those who argue the Army’s not relevant post-Iraq are wrong.”
But making the Army an even more versatile force for the future requires the “proper amount of resources,” said Parry. However, he said he felt the upcoming presidential election and the two candidates’ visions for the military are putting resourcing details on hold.
Series of seminars
Still, the annual meeting offered a series of seminars on contemporary military and family forums for those soldiers and civilians in attendance.
Fort Hood Soldier of the Year Cadet Gideon Lovik, now a full-time college student in the Army’s Green to Gold program, was sponsored by the local AUSA to attend. He said he appreciated the opportunity to hear first-hand from senior officers “where the Army’s going to be,” as he prepares to commission as an officer upon completion of his schooling.