News: Army Chief of Staff holds town hall meeting for JBLM community
Story by Staff Sgt. Mark Miranda
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – The Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, spoke at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Carey Theater, June 26. Odierno met with Soldiers and leaders of I Corps, 7th Infantry Division and JBLM units during a town hall question and answer forum.
The Army Chief of Staff visited the JBLM military community, June 25-26, where he got a firsthand look at the U.S. Army in the Pacific Northwest.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the 38th Army Chief of Staff, toured JBLM and met with soldiers of I Corps, 7th Infantry Division and other units. He attended a town hall meeting open to soldiers, Army civilians and Family members, addressing issues that confront the Army.
Hundreds of participants packed Carey Theater for the town hall meeting, which was being televised live on the Pentagon Channel.
“There is a lot going on,” Odierno said in opening remarks about the state of the U.S. Army.
“Our Army is engaged, even though we are facing some fiscal challenges. We are in a time of great transition, and we’re trying to shape ourselves for the future.”
He acknowledged that among the biggest difficulties facing the Army is its budget. Odierno discussed the announcement made June 25 about reducing the size of the active-duty component of the Army from 570,000 to 490,000.
“The plan focuses around the elimination of 12 brigade combat teams around the Army. We’re reorganizing our infantry and armor brigade combat teams into three-battalion brigades; and also improving fires and engineer capabilities within these brigades. The next two to three years we will start this transition.”
While two in Germany had already been announced, the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division on JBLM was one of the units identified to deactivate by 2017.
“We’re taking another nine brigades out from among all the major installations, then we’ll try to re-invest those reductions into the remaining brigades,” Odierno said. “What we need to do is try to retain the highest levels of readiness that we can with the money we’re given, because there’s great uncertainty out there in the world.”
Odierno described the Army’s concept of regionally-aligned forces, adding that most JBLM units are already aligned with the U.S. Pacific Command. He called the new Army one that is globally responsible and regionally engaged.
“That means we have to be able to respond anywhere in the world very quickly. We have to move to an expeditionary mindset; deploying in small packages to remote areas with very little infrastructure.”
On the topic of leadership, Odierno reinforced the importance of the Army’s moral and ethical values, emphasizing that the bedrock of the Army’s profession is trust.
“Right now we have an insider threat that’s challenging that trust, and that’s the threat of sexual harassment and sexual assault,” Odierno said. “I believe it’s eroding the core of the Army. We shouldn’t have soldiers fearing other soldiers because of the threat of sexual assault. The only way we’re going to fix it is through action at the lowest levels.”
Odierno said that leaders must build a command climate where soldiers are not afraid to report incidents of harassment and assault, and Soldiers must also intervene when they see incidents occur.
Odierno cited the leader development program announced two weeks ago, which will affect the development of officers, noncommissioned officers, and Department of the Army civilians.
“Our strength comes from our leaders, we have the best leaders in the world and we have to sustain that advantage.” Odierno said.
Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler joined Odierno on the Carey Theater stage for a question and answer session.
The Army’s senior leadership fielded questions ranging from the effects of the budget, deployments, new uniforms, and the medical evaluation process to military benefits for same-sex partners and Army programs.
Sgt. Adam Montgomery, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Div., asked about the effect of the drawdown on promotions.
“I’m concerned that they’ll slow down. Will we be able to stay in longer, will the retention control points change?” Montgomery asked.
Chandler said promotions will have more time requirements before attaining the next level of leadership to let soldiers earn the experience needed to excel at the next rank.
“Look at time between promotions as a period to set yourself apart from your peers,” Chandler said. “Do so, and when you are eligible you’ll be competitive and be selected.”
Odierno said that the current troop strength of 530,000 – a force reduction of about 40,000 personnel–was reached partly through natural attrition.
Among the hot-button issues discussed, several positive points in the Army’s future were presented as well.
“As we get smaller, we’re going to have the best Army ever,” Odierno said. “It’s going to have the best talent, it’s going to modernize, and it will have the budget to train the size of the Army we have.”
“With regionally aligned forces you’re going to have the ability to go to many places around the world. For example, if you’re here you can go to Singapore, Australia, Korea and the list of places is growing.”
Odierno closed by saying that he is still very proud to wear his uniform after 37 years of service.
“As the best Army in the world, you’re still part of something bigger than yourself – we’re just going through a rough patch right now. What I would tell all soldiers – if you do your job, and you want to continue to serve, you will have exciting opportunities to contribute in the future,” Odierno said.