TOKYO (Jan. 23, 2012) -- The Army's top-ranking officer was in Japan Jan. 19 to meet with senior leaders from both the U.S. and Japanese militaries and governments to discuss the U.S. Army's role in helping to shape the future of the Pacific region.

Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno embarked on an Asia-Pacific theater tour Jan. 17, his first trip to the Pacific Rim since taking the position in September 2011. While in Japan, the general met with U.S. Ambassador John Roos, Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, or JGSDF, Chief of Staff Gen. Eiji Kimizuka, and military leaders at the U.S. Army Japan headquarters at Camp Zama.

"As [U.S. military leaders] release the new strategy with an emphasis on the Pacific, I thought it was important to get out here as soon as possible and start discussing what our future mission will be," said Odierno at Camp Zama. "I also came here to visit the people who work here at U.S. Forces Japan and have a discussion on what their capabilities are [and] what their issues are."

Odierno first visited the U.S. Embassy for his meeting with Roos. His next stop was the JGSDF headquarters, Camp Ichigaya, located in Japan's capital city. There, he met with Kimizuka, his JGSDF counterpart.

Kimizuka expressed his appreciation for the extensive disaster-relief support provided to Japan by U.S. forces following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck the country's northeastern coast in March 2011.

"[In regard to] the disaster-relief operations, the Japanese peoples' expectations of the Self-Defense Forces -- especially the Ground Self-Defense Forces -- have been increased," Kimizuka told Odierno through a translator. "Also, [their] reliance on U.S. forces has increased. Under these circumstances, it is very significant for us to receive [visits] from high-ranking U.S. officials [such as yourself]."

Odierno told Kimizuka he chose Japan to be his first overseas visit as chief of staff because of the close relationship their two countries have built over time. He returned the praise by acknowledging the general's "tremendous leadership during a time of great need for [his] country."

"I have learned over my career than when you are involved in very difficult situations, there is nothing more important than leadership in order to help a nation through some very difficult times," Odierno told Kimizuka. "You provided that leadership, as well as the Ground Self-Defense Forces who performed so superbly."

The work done by both U.S. and Japanese forces in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami greatly impressed Odierno, he said, adding that, "Relationships that have been built during a time of very difficult circumstances goes a lot toward building stronger relationships."

Following a briefing with USARJ leaders at Camp Zama, Odierno presented certificates of achievement to the installation's Soldier, Civilian, Retiree and Japanese Master Labor Contractor of the Quarter during a brief ceremony there.

"I just want to thank all the families and all the military and civilians who work here at U.S. Forces Japan for your service and all the great work you've done in supporting the Japanese people," said Odierno. "You're a credit to the United States, and you have acted in such a way that brings honor to the Unites States Army, as well as the United States as a whole."

Page last updated Mon January 23rd, 2012 at 00:00