Odierno visits deployed Soldiers in Afghanistan
December 21, 2011
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno visited with Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan to share a holiday message and his gratitude to those deployed through the holiday season, Dec. 21.
Odierno began his visit to Kandahar Airfield with a tour of Mustang Ramp, which is the temporary home to the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, the rotary-wing aviation asset for Regional Command South.
"When I started out as a division commander my biggest concern was would the thing last and be able to fly the amount of hours we asked it to, and it's done it once, twice, three, four, five times, but it's because of you," Odierno told Soldiers from the 159th CAB as he talked about the role aviation has played in Afghanistan and Iraq. "It's because your experience, your expertise, what you bring to the table in ensuring that we have the capability to support everyone in the area of operations, no matter what it might be. It's your professionalism and attention to detail that's allowed us to do that."
In addition to touring the aviation brigade's facilities Odierno ate lunch with a few of the Soldiers and fielded questions. The questions covered everything from international affairs to retirement.
"There will be some changes," Odierno said on the topic of retirement. "We don't know what they will be yet. There's a lot of work to be done."
He reassured the Soldiers, however, that both the commander in chief and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are intent on grandfathering current service members into the changes whenever they occur.
Odierno also presented awards to nearly 100 Soldiers, and he administered the oath of enlistment to several Soldiers from various units who were reenlisting, an event near and dear to his heart.
"I'm very proud that we have good men and women who are willing to stand up and raise their right hand and say 'I want to be part of something that is bigger than myself. I want to contribute, and I want to make a difference,'" Odierno said.
One of those Soldiers Odierno reenlisted was Spc. David Ponce, a human resources specialist with the 159th CAB who reenlisted for four years and is based at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.
"Being in the Army pushes you to do more," Ponce said. "It pushes you to do your best and then some. It was a huge honor to have General Odierno reenlist me. Not many people can say they were reenlisted by the chief of staff of the Army."
To Odierno, the honor was all his.
"No matter how many times you've been deployed, whether this is your first deployment or your last deployment, you have made a huge difference and contributed to stability, whether it be in Iraq or Afghanistan, and you've given them a chance for a future," he said.
Odierno closed his remarks to the Soldiers with a reminder to stay safe and have a happy holiday season. He also reminded them of the importance to look out for one another, particularly in those units like the 159th CAB that are preparing to redeploy.
"Remember that as you get ready to deploy home to your family, you've got to continue to take care of each other," he said. "Be there for one another."
"The bonds you've formed on this deployment and other deployments you've had you'll remember for the rest of your life. I guarantee it," said Odierno. "Part of that is being part of a team, part of a unit, and that you were able to achieve something together that very few people get a chance to achieve."