Odierno Fleshes Out Pacific Strategy, Afghan Advisory Mission

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.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)