Defense

June 25, 2012

Army chief talks war fighter, future force during Fort Hood visit

by Heather Graham-Ashley
Fort Hood, Texas

Gen. Raymond Odierno, 38th Army chief of staff, speaks to members of the Central Texas media in Club Hood at Fort Hood, Texas, June 22, 2012, at a press conference. The general visited Fort Hood to discuss the after-action review of III Corps’ recent Warfighter Exercise, the first exercise of its kind in more than a decade.

The future Army force must be able to respond to complex missions quickly with flexibility and adaptability in all formations, explained Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno, June 22, at Fort Hood, Texas.

The Army chief spent the day at the post to look at III Corps’ Warfighter Exercise and talking about the Army’s way ahead as the force works to maintain abilities and capabilities in an increasingly complex environment while facing troop reductions and limited resources.

Warfighter, which began June 11 and ended June 22, was a corps-level exercise designed to test III Corps’ mission command functions and systems for future potential unified land operation contingencies, those that entail combined combat and humanitarian or stability missions involving both governmental and non-governmental agencies at the same time.

“It’s an exercise that’s really helping us to look toward the future and what are some of the missions we might have to execute,” Odierno said. “Third Corps set the stage for us on what we think are some of the potential areas that we have to consider as we continue to develop our future force and as we continue to train and prepare ourselves to be ready for (future) missions.”

The exercise involved more than a year’s worth of training and preparation and provided key training for corps- and division-level staff members on the battlefield of the future – one that is complex, hybrid and asymmetrical, said Lt. Gen. Don Campbell, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general.

“It helps us begin the dialog on how we fight and train at the corps level,” Campbell added.

Warfighter was a look at the way the Army of the future could handle the complexities of multiple missions and provided the Army chief feedback about operational capabilities in future contingencies.

“This exercise is helping us to continue to develop what are the capabilities and characteristics we want the Army to have as we move to a new security environment, and this new environment is becoming more and more complex,” Odierno said.

Two challenges facing the military in this new environment are the way instantaneous communication has impacted security and the way information flows worldwide.

“We have to be able to respond to that,” Odierno said. “In the future, we have to be an Army that can respond across a continuum of potential security challenges, whether it be from humanitarian assistance to something much more difficult.”

The future Army must be able to respond quickly, with flexibility and adaptability in all formations, the Army chief added. Warfighter helped inform doctrine about that future force, Campbell said.

With 92,000 soldiers currently deployed throughout the world, including 68,000 in Afghanistan, as the Army chief, Odierno has to balance that with what the Army is going to look like 10 years from now.

As the battlefield becomes more complex, the Army is preparing to do more with less.

With the Department of Defense facing $487 billion worth of cuts across the board, the Army is looking to reduce its end strength by about 80,000 over the next five years.

Overall, Odierno said, the effect on Fort Hood with those cuts would not be wide reaching.

“The specific impact on Fort Hood, my guess, would be relatively small,” he said.

With the potential Base Realignment and Closures, or BRAC, off the table for 2013, the potential for another round of BRAC in 2015 remains, but should mostly affect reserve-component units and facilities.

“Major installations like Fort Hood, Fort Bliss (Texas), Fort Carson (Colo.), they will not be affected by any future BRAC,” Odierno said.

The potential does remain for sequestration in January, but Odierno said he is hopeful that Congress can reach an agreement and resolve the budget.

Sequestration would mean directed cuts – “We have no say,” Odierno said. “All bets would be off.”

He, as well as the other service chiefs, has testified in front of Congress numerous times that sequestration would have devastating impact on the services.

Regardless, cuts are coming. DOD-wide, reductions in personnel, equipment and other resources will have some service members leaving the military.

Although the Army is taking cuts in some areas, other programs and services remain untouched at this point.

“We are continuing to fund our family programs at 100 percent,” Odierno said.

Although budgetary constraints will cause the Army to reduce troops by 80,000 over the next five years, steps are being taken to help those transitioning service members.

Odierno said the Army is working to help veterans as they attempt to enter into the already tough civilian workforce.

He noted the Veterans Opportunity to Work Act, which goes into effect in November, and is specifically aimed at helping veterans by identifying potential employers, helping with writing resumes and overall preparing them better to transition.

The VOW Act enhances the DOD Transition Assistance Program, offers expanded educational opportunities to some service members and works with states and the Department of Labor to help veterans find work.

“We’re going to start preparing veterans 12 months out,” Odierno said, “to better prepare them to look for employment.”

The chief also noted that he has been going around the country visiting with chief executive officers and networking with different programs and agencies geared toward helping veterans secure employment.

“We are now working together to link those together so we can link Soldiers leaving the Army with these employers who want to provide jobs to veterans,” Odierno said.

He has set up an office under Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to help organize transition services regionally.

The Army continues to focus on how to best assist veterans with the transition into the civilian workforce while preparing the future force for a new, complex battlefield.

“We have to maintain the right size in order to be a credible deterrent to those out there to ensure they realize we have an Army that’s capable, that ‘s ready and modernized enough to ensure we don’t have miscalculations on the part of some people around the world,” Odierno said. “That’s the thing I’m most concerned about.”




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