WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2012 — The Army will remain strong in the Pacific to reflect the increased emphasis on the region, the Army chief of staff said here today.
The Army already has a strong presence in the region, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told a Defense Writers Group roundtable.
“If you added up the number of people, the Army has more people over there than the Navy and the Air Force,” he said.
These numbers will not drop despite overall reductions in the Army’s size, the general told the group. “We will sustain what we have and then review how we do our business,” he said. “This issue over the past eight years has been that many of the forces in the region were used in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
This means troops nominally assigned to the region actually fought in U.S. Central Command, the general explained. The 25th Infantry Division, for example, recently returned to Hawaii after completing its mission in the Centcom region, Odierno said.
This model will change, he added. Going forward, if the Army must use Pacific forces outside the region, commanders will replace that capability. “There will always be a baseline of capability in the Pacific,” he said.
But the numbers tell only one part of the story, Odierno said. The service will review pre-positioned stocks around the world to ensure these are positioned properly in case of a contingency. In the Pacific, the general said, the most important aspect is to accomplish multilateral training, noting that he is working with regional Army chiefs to find ways to increase this training.
These army-to-army contacts are important, Odierno said. Seven out of the 10 largest armies are in the Pacific, he noted, and 22 of the 27 nations in the region have an army officer as chief of defense. “Us engaging with them to build relationships will help us in the long run in the Pacific,” the general told the defense writers.
Odierno also talked about the “advise and assist” brigades that will deploy to Afghanistan shortly, and said they will become more important for Afghan units in the future. The Army is putting together two of these brigades now, the general said, and they will deploy with the numbers of officers and noncommissioned officers needed to advise and assist Afghan national security forces.
Most soldiers in the brigades will be combat veterans and will understand what these Afghan forces need, Odierno said. With the end of the U.S. military mission in Iraq, he added, more forces are available for the advise-and-assist mission in Afghanistan. The general told the writers he expects the number of advise-and-assist units to grow as the deadline for turning over security responsibility to the Afghan forces approaches at the end of 2014.
Special operations and conventional forces will work even more closely together to accomplish this training mission, Odierno said, and the Army forces will work with Marine advise-and-assist teams as well. The general added that he sees no duplication of effort with special ops, the Marines and the Army pitching in to train Afghan soldiers and police. “There’s room for all of us to do this in order to sustain it for a longer period of time,” he said.
This shows the Army is flexible, Odierno said, as Army brigades can “own ground,” conduct counterinsurgency operations, send a brigade to conduct high-end operations in Korea, all while being able to conduct the training and advising mission.
“That shows the flexibility of our organization and the kind of organization we will need in the future,” he added. “We are going to have a lot of diverse operations to do.”
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