Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno paid a whirlwind visit to the Vicenza Military Community April 30 through May 1 where he called on a variety of units to include U.S. Army Africa. Odierno took time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions posed by U.S. Army Africa journalists Wednesday, May 1.
Q: What is the Army doing to maintain readiness with respect to current resources?
A: We have an issue, especially in FY 13, because the Army is short about $13 billion. We've had to reduce our training across the Army. We've had to cancel six Combat Training Center rotations. We've had to reduce flying hours. We had to reduce home station trainings. These are problematic because it could translate into more unreadiness in FY 14 and 15. We are working very carefully to make the maximum use of the dollars we have available; to make sure we conduct good solid, hard training at the lowest level. Mostly squad platoon level. This will sustain our capabilities for the future. Hopefully, as the budget picture clears, we'll have the dollars in FY 14 so that we can continue to ramp-up our readiness levels. It's important, as we are in a time of great uncertainty. It's important that we maintain a high level of readiness.
Q: What has impressed you so far on your European tour?
A: Whenever I travel, I'm always impressed by our Soldiers and leaders in our Army; their dedication and commitment to being successful to accomplishing the mission. I had the opportunity to visit AFRICOM in Stuttgart and had some time to visit U.S. Army Europe as well. I'm finishing up with U.S. Army Africa and the 173rd Airborne in Vicenza. It's been a great visit. The 173rd is just coming back from Afghanistan; finishing up on block leave and preparing to move into their new facilities. U.S. Army Africa is doing such a great job of providing initiative in showing capabilities for us to develop and improve security on the African continent. I had some very interesting conversations with the leadership of U.S. Army Africa and they are conducting, what I consider to be innovative operations. It's very impressive.
Q: Can you go into more detail about the role of U.S. Army Africa in protecting U.S. national interests in Africa?
A: We are all concerned about the African continent because we are starting to see some terrorist organizations try to put down roots throughout North Africa, West Africa and some parts of East Africa. U.S. Army Africa is trying to shape the operational environment and prevent these terrorist organizations from taking hold. These terrorist organizations are trying to create instability on the African continent, then transport that instability to other places such as Europe and the United States. The programs U.S. Army Africa conducts are key to establishing a security environment that makes it difficult for these terrorist organizations to take hold. It's one of the more important missions that we have. As we look forward to the future, it's a mission that I'm most concerned about. I'm pleased with the efforts they are putting into place now that I think will help us get after this problem.
Q: What is the role of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in supporting national security?
A: It's the role of all of our units here in Europe. The 2nd Cavalry Regiment is getting ready for deployment to Afghanistan. The 173rd, which has been deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 12 years, has played a key role in being one of the most significant brigades in the U.S. Army in providing forward deployed capabilities. The 173rd is coming back now and resetting and preparing of the next mission or contingency. With their airborne capability, they can move quickly to put tailored and scaled forces anywhere in the world if needed. They are a key element to our future defense strategy. It is important that we help them to sustain their proficiency.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say to the Vicenza Military Community?
A: Thanks to the Vicenza Military Community for the great work it has done in taking care of our families; especially through numerous deployments. This afternoon I will get a chance to see some of the new facilities. They are well overdue. It will make a big difference here in the community. Getting Soldiers into the right kind of facility and bringing parts of the 173rd Brigade back together again. I want to thank the Vicenza community for their support to the U.S. Army and to the 173rd and U.S. Army Africa. It has been a great partnership with the Italian people in supporting our Soldiers here. I want to thank them for that. They represent what is best about our Army as we go forward. It is great to be here and I'm very excited to see how we continue how we progress and move forward with our relationship here in Vicenza.