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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Odierno: ‘There’s Angst in the Army’ (Updated)
Odierno: ‘There’s Angst in the Army’ (Updated)
By Sandra I. Erwin

The end of the war is in sight, but there are still 60,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. The Army announced it will downsize, but it also wants to retain its best and brightest. The U.S. military will be redeploying forces to the Asia-Pacific region, but the Army is not likely to play the leading role.

It’s enough uncertainty to make people quite anxious, acknowledged Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff.

“We have this large organization that has to go through some significant change,” Odierno said Nov. 1 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, D.C.

Odierno, a former top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, has been spending considerable time of late pondering the future, and more importantly, how to communicate a “vision of change” to a constituency of 1.1 million soldiers, 700,000 civilians and nearly a million family members. “That's a lot of people to reach out to,” he said. “How we communicate the change is critical.”

Odierno said he worries about Army leaders’ ability to articulate “where we want to go,” he said. “There's angst in the Army” because of the coming downsizing and the foggy outlook about the Army’s mission post-Afghanistan.

His plan sounds simple: Ensure the Army is ready to fight anytime, and anywhere, from low-intensity to large-scale conflicts. But Odierno recognizes that this will be a difficult transition for an Army that has spent more than a decade focused entirely on counterinsurgency warfare for Iraq and Afghanistan deployments. The goal is to dial back that training and being to rebuild a force with a “baseline of combined arms readiness,” Odierno said. “We need a building block capability to respond to a broad range of missions.”

Another goal is to educate soldiers on region-specific culture and language, so they are better prepared for conflict in any part of the world. Army leaders concede that the forces that went into Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from a complete lack of knowledge of the local government, culture and language. “We can't let that happen again,” said Odierno. “We have to be better.”

The Army’s plan, meanwhile, is made all the more complicated by the unpredictability of where the force might be asked to go months or years from now.

“There is incredible uncertainty as we look to the future,” said Odierno. During his weekly intelligence briefings on global hot spots, he is struck by the vagueness of what might constitute a threat to national security. “The potential areas of instability cover the entire map of the world,” he said.

The Army’s ambition to be a jack-of-all-trades will require it to expand its skills. The intent is to have “regionally aligned forces,” said Odierno. Instead of training for rotational deployments in Afghanistan, brigades will immerse themselves in the culture of a particular region of the world, and that unit would then be available to participate in multinational exercises or “security cooperation” programs with nations in that area.

“We’ll make forces available to combatant commanders, from platoon to brigades, or combat support,” said Odierno. A brigade based at Fort Polk, La., which is now dedicated exclusively to prepare teams to train Afghan security forces, will be assigned to “look worldwide at how we build partners’ capacity,” he said.

The Army’s 1st Corps based at Fort Lewis, Wash., will be “aligned” with U.S. Pacific Command. The 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, based at Fort Riley, Kansas, will support U.S. Africa Command.

These regional alignments, he said, are “key to our future. … We have to reinvigorate Army relationships in the Pacific. … We have to do multilateral events to build confidence.”

For this game plan to be successful, Odierno said, the Army will need to ensure that the most competent war veterans stay in the service. Senior officers worry that young commanders who have become accustomed to relative freedom from higher command during combat tours will be unhappy and unmotivated in the institutional Army. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the name of the Army brigade that will be aligned with AFRICOM.

Photo Credit: Defense Department


Re: Odierno: ‘There’s Angst in the Army’

'relative freedom from higher command...'?  We are talking about the US Army, right?
Schaub at 11/3/2012 10:40 AM

Re: Odierno: ‘There’s Angst in the Army’

It's amazing how all of the changes, improvements, policy updates, equipment upgrades, and new thought processes can all be summed up with the following sentence;  "the Army needs to be more like the Marines".
Michael Hasbun at 11/3/2012 12:19 PM

Re: Odierno: ‘There’s Angst in the Army’

I'm in Afghanistan currently and I can tell you that through all of the "modernization" of the Army that has occured. Has in my eyes produced poor leaders on a consistent basis. Not to say everyone is bad but for every one good leader, there are 10 bad ones. So to say that the Army will retain the best and brightest is a falacy that someone totally out of touch with "their" troops would come up with. To say that combatant commanders who have had relative freedom while deployed may be unhappy or unmotivated? It's not the commander who really says to excecute nothing more or less that I'm not concerned about, I'm concerned about the guy who joined after 9/11 and doesn't know anything but deployments who will be unmotivated. I know because I'm one of them, in my eyes things are already going to a zero defect Army that will have anyone in a position to lose any hard gains unwilling to act for fear of losing their career. I agree with the previous post that everything comes down to we should be more like the Marines, if you go off of their uniform selection alone you'll see that they are operating in the right frame of mind. All any soldier wants is to know that the Army will not turn its back on them if they are a morale and loyal soldier who only wants to do their job as a warfighter not have to worry about not getting the proper equipment and funding to fight the next war, like we when we started the last two.
Kyle at 11/3/2012 3:39 PM

Re: Odierno: ‘There’s Angst in the Army’

Good. The highest leaders now know what everyone else in the Army has known for the past, oh....6 years.
ServingCPT at 11/3/2012 5:04 PM

Re: Odierno: ‘There’s Angst in the Army’

Having been a naturalized citizen who served in the army of my adopted country (South Africa), I'd say the key isn't so much teaching soldiers how to be Arabs or South Americans, but more about ensuring adequate levels of ethnic minorities within the force, who can act as in-house impromptu advisers to deployed units. Obviously, it would help if there was some sort of template for instruction programs which said "advisers" can follow to teach fellow soldiers, but it might be cheaper than force various units to swallow wholesale cultural immersion, which can change at a moment's notice depending on unforeseen deployments. Just a thought... 
M. Negres at 11/4/2012 8:18 PM

Re: Odierno: ‘There’s Angst in the Army’

 "the Army needs to be more like the Marines"...

No, the failed social experiment called the Army needs to be absorbed by the Marines (Yes, back to Boot Camp), with all of those NOT meeting the current standards given the choice of Green-to-Blue or shown the door, with the option of transferring to the NG where we need to increase their size 4-fold.

Once again, we need to re-organize our military & get away from redundant forces (5-Air Forces, 2-Navies, 2-Land Forces, Redundant SOF, etc.) (counting the Coast Guard as the 5th service???).

Take the BEST of what we currently have & put them in charge of their respective force (Land, Sea, Air & SOF)...not the other way around just because they might happen to be the biggest...Do Not dumb down the forces.

We only need 1-Air Force, 1-Navy, 1-Ground Force & 1-Dedicated SOF, after all, this is taxpayer $$$...Not some magic government $$$.
GHD at 11/4/2012 8:36 PM

Re: Odierno: ‘There’s Angst in the Army’

2nd BDE 1st Infantry Division will support AFRICOM, NOT 1st BDE/2 ID. 1st BDE 2nd Inf Division is in Korea.  How does that BDE supporting AFRICOM even make sense?  Someone should have asked that question before this story was posted.

Ski at 11/5/2012 4:38 AM

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