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Army Wants to Change to Keep Soldiers ‘Excited’ About Service

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2012 – Army leaders are aware of the differences between field forces and garrison forces and look to minimize the differences, the Army chief of staff said today.

Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told the Defense Writers Group that he wants to ensure soldiers “stay excited” about being in the Army, and is looking at ways to do that.

“What I’m trying to do is excite our young men and women about developing a future,” he said. “They will help us all develop what the Army is going to look like and how we might fight in the future.”

Over the course of 10 years of war, younger soldiers have assumed a great deal of responsibility in Iraq and Afghanistan, the general explained. Yet when they get back to their home stations, he said, they often find multiple levels of supervision where there was just one during their deployments.

As the Army drops in numbers, Odierno said, the new budget looks to build “reversibility” into the service. This means the service will retain more officers and noncommissioned officers to be able to rebuild the force if the strategy is wrong and the nation needs more land power. These officers and NCOs do not necessarily need to be in line outfits, he added.

“Over the last eight years we’ve created holes in our Army,” Odierno said. For example, the service’s Training and Doctrine Command used to be full of officers and NCOs. “We significantly reduced that over the last seven to eight years to fill the ranks for Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, noting that civilians and contractors filled those jobs at the command.

The general told the writers he wants to reduce that trend and put experienced officers and NCOs back into those slots. That enables the Army to take advantage of their combat experience and improve future strategies, techniques and doctrine, he said.

Odierno cited Fort Benning, Ga., as another example of a place to host these officers and NCOs. In the past, “we always had small group leaders – captains, majors and NCOs – and that has gone away,” he said. “We want to reinvigorate that and put officers and NCOs in those places.” If leaders decide the Army does not need to shrink as much as now planned, then these officers and NCOs would be perfectly placed to rebuild battalions and brigades, Odierno said.

The general said he does not want soldiers to panic over the upcoming changes. The Army will drop to about 480,000 soldiers by the end of 2017. Odierno said this measured, careful and slow drop will allow the service to take advantage of natural attrition. “There’s still lots of opportunity to make a career out of the Army,” he said.

Three or four years ago, the service recruited large numbers of soldiers, the general said, and he expects a similar attrition rate in the next few years. “There will be something we will have to do around the fringes that will cause us to ask some of those who would have been asked to stay before, to leave,” he said. “But that’s going to be limited, in my view.”

Soldiers at all levels have a great deal of combat experience and knowledge, Odierno said. “We have a great Army, and I want to keep the experience, I want to keep the best,” he said. “We want to ensure that those who are doing very, very well have a chance to continue to succeed in Army.”

Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno

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