By Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the ArmyOctober 23, 2013
Good Afternoon. How is everyone today? It's great to be here and see such a great turnout. Joe Sullivan and I were commenting on this. This is my 3rd one, and by far the largest turnout. They are all the way to corners. I want to thank everyone for their tremendous support. Obviously, I want to thank General Sullivan and the AUSA for putting on this very important forum that allows us to talk about our profession and to talk about where the Army is headed and to see the technical capabilities, but also have the forum set up where we talk about families and leaders and the way ahead. It is such an important forum for us. We are so pleased that we are able to do it this year. It is the steadfast commitment of General Sullivan and the team that made that happen. So thank you, Sir, thank you for everything you do.
You probably noticed that the Secretary of the Army is not here, and the Vice isn't here. We had to make a trade because last night we got a call that there was a meeting today, and I was suppose to be the one to attend. I told them I had lunch with 4,000 of my closest friends, and I couldn't make it so the Secretary and the Vice are filling in for me. They certainly wish that they could be here.
The Former Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Louis Caldera, Sir, thank you for being here. It is good to see you again. The 31st Chief of Staff of the Army, Carl Vuono, Sir, it is always great to see you. The 33rd Chief of Staff of the Army, Dennis Reimer, it is great to see you, Sir. We were commenting before, there are 4 of us here, and three of us are Artillerymen. We thought that was pretty good. Then we tried to name another Artillerymen, and we couldn't find another one all the way back to 1960 or something like that. Still, we are riding the wave right now.
SMA Raymond Chandler, Sir, Sergeant Major thank you for your leadership as always. Former SMA's Robert Hall, Jack Tilley & Kenneth Preston, thank you all for being here and your continued support to our great Army.
Normally at this luncheon we typically recognize the Soldier of the Year, which is done from a competition that we have, but unfortunately it had to be postponed because of the shut down. However, I promise you that come the 19th and 20th of November we are going to conduct that competition. It is an incredible competition that brings our best leaders from across the Army together. So we are sorry we weren't able to recognize them. Now we had a bunch of people stand up and recognize them, and now I want to recognize a group of people today. Because of all the great uncertainty and great hard work that has had to be done, I want everyone here who is on the Army staff to stand up. I know you don't want to, stand up, admit you are on the Army staff. Come on lets go. We have a great team who has worked incredibly hard over the last several years to get us where we are. I am very proud of them and the hard work that they do and I wanted to recognize them.
I'd like to thank the many Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and family members that are here today. I'd like to thank the people who do so much for our Army Family - our supporters on Capitol Hill; our allies and multinational partners who are here; and each of our partners in corporate America who do so much to help us as we build the finest Army in the world.
Finally, I want to thank my high school sweetheart who has committed her life to our Soldiers and Families, my wife Linda. Her selflessness, her personal sacrifice, and resilience have been an inspiration to me and an incredible example for all of our Families. Linda, thank you for everything that you do.
As I stand here today, it's hard for me to believe that I have been here for over 2 years, and that means I'm more than halfway through my tenure as Chief of Staff. I also wonder if there is anything else that will happen. For much of the last two years, we've been heavily focused on the budget -- we've had no other choice. We've had to grapple with unprecedented fiscal uncertainty. There is one thing that has remained steadfast --that is the commitment, competence, and character of the Soldiers and Civilians of this great Army. Their dedication to each other, the mission at hand, and our Nation and that remains the foundation of who we are. This year, the Soldiers and Civilians of the Active Army, Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve have repeatedly demonstrated why we are the strength of the Nation. We've adapted our formations and training to prepare our Soldiers for the constantly changing security environment.
In Afghanistan, the fielding of Security Forces Assistance Brigades has dramatically increased the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces who are now fully in the lead of security operations across the country. We've sent Patriot and THAAD batteries to Guam, Turkey, and Jordan to defend our Allies, and we have continued to evolve our force posture all around the world in places like Africa, in places like the Pacific region.
To help Combatant Commanders shape their theaters, we've sent Soldiers to conduct logistics training alongside units from places like Sierra Leone and trained Indonesian Army forces for future disaster response missions. We've sent Soldiers to fight fires in northern California and to assist with flood relief in Colorado. Our Civilian workforce has stood by us every step of the way, even as they personally sacrificed their pay and endured disruption to their workplace and project momentum. We owe each and every one of them a debt of gratitude for their commitment to our Army, the Department of Defense, and the Nation. Together, we have shown the American people why our Army is truly the strength of this great Nation.
There are many who are concerned about the role of the Army in the future. The bottom line is that the Army always has and always will play a significant role in our Joint Force. We can't afford to stand still, and now is not the time to take our eye off the ball. Whatever the size of our budget, whatever the size of any future Army, our political leaders and the American people expect our Soldiers to be ready for the next security challenge. Therefore, over the next two years, we will move out on implementing the institutional reforms necessary to ensure the Soldiers of today are prepared to fight and win tomorrow.
Therefore, let me take a few minutes to describe my strategic vision and priorities for our Army. The Army will remain the most highly trained and professional All-Volunteer land force in the world, uniquely organized with the capability and capacity to provide expeditionary and decisive landpower to the Joint Force, ready and capable to perform across the spectrum of conflict and across the range of military operations to prevent conflict, shape the current and future security environment, and if necessary win in support of our National Security objectives. We will do that if we are needed today, but also against emerging threats of the future.
To accomplish this vision, we will focus on five strategic priorities for the future: developing adaptive Army leaders for a complex world; building a Globally Responsive and Regionally Engaged Army; providing a ready and modern Army; strengthening our commitment to our Army Profession; and last but not least, sustaining the premier All-Volunteer Army.
One of the Army's greatest competitive advantages has been in the development of leaders. As we look to the future, it is essential that we build on this advantage as the security environment will grow in complexity. We'll never walk away from building the individual toughness, battlefield skill, and the fighting spirit that has defined the American Soldier. However, we must also grow strategic leaders by providing our Soldiers and Civilians with the analytical tools to understand the complexity of the contemporary security environment. Why is this so important? Given the dynamic uncertainty of conducting operations in today's world, it is imperative that military leaders not only have tactical and technical proficiency but also understand the underlying political, economic, and social context at the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war. We must reinforce the hard earned lessons learned conducting joint and multinational operations, conducting interagency planning, intergovernmental collaboration. We have experienced this over the past 10 years and the future demands of our leaders require that we operate comfortably in this environment in the future.
We are reviewing the curriculum at all of our NCO, Officer, and Civilian professional military education centers to ensure that we retain our tactical and technical proficiency while cultivating an operational perspective from initial entry up through the senior NCO, and our General Officers, as well as our Senior Executive Service. We are expanding opportunities for broadening assignments at Combatant Commands, the Army and Joint Staff, agencies across the government, internships with think tanks and industry, and we are incentivizing advanced civil schooling. As we do, we will institute new evaluation and assessment tools that will enable the Army to identify the best talent and manage their assignments, so that we match the right Soldiers and civilians, with the right assignments, at the right time.
The future environment demands that we be globally responsible and postured to rapidly deploy, fight and win, whenever and wherever our national interests are threatened. We will reestablish an expeditionary mindset by improving our capabilities to project power and, if necessary, conduct forced entry into denied areas, under austere conditions anywhere in the world. We are improving our responsiveness to the Combatant Commanders by eliminating institutional impediments to providing forces rapidly and expediting their movement into theater. We will maintain a responsive force posture and effective network of installations and capabilities at home and abroad to protect U.S. interests and those of our allies. We must continue to be the force of choice for providing critical, expeditionary enablers to the Joint Force in areas such as aviation, intelligence, engineers, medical, signal, and special operations, just to name a few.
As we build our expeditionary capabilities for crisis response, we will align our Forces in support of Combatant Commanders. They will be deployable, scalable from Platoon to Corps. By aligning divisions and corps habitually to a regional Combatant Commander, Army units will shape the environment, build trust, and gain access through rotational deployments, military-to-military engagements, bilateral and multilateral exercises, theater security cooperation activities. We will build on and improve the interdependence of our Special Operations and Conventional Forces. Working alongside our Special Operations Forces, our interagency partners, and our Allies we will deepen regional understanding and use it to sharpen tactical, operational and strategic planning.
We've already started implementing Regionally Aligned Force concepts in a couple of locations with great impact. At the Brigade level, the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division has been at the forefront, conducting over 40 missions for U.S. Africa Command -- from crisis response to security cooperation missions in South Africa, Chad, and Niger, most of which were executed with junior Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers in the lead. In Jordan, 1st Armor Division has demonstrated the same level of flexibility by creating a divisional headquarters aligned to U.S. Central Command that provides support to several regional exercises, training to local Allies and partner units and nations, and serves as the base for projecting CENTCOM Forward presence. Regionally Aligned Forces will add to the activities the Army routinely performs with the Army Corps of Engineers, civil affairs, aviation and medical support teams, including our State Partnership Programs linking Army National Guard units with forces in 71 nations.
As we come out of Afghanistan, or as we continue to reduce our presence in Afghanistan, we will expand our regional alignment of forces across the Force. Our Brigades will cycle through a Regional Alignment rotation under Combatant Command support and control. In doing so, we will reinforce the notion of gaining local and regional knowledge, build the readiness of our forces, and most importantly, build the readiness of our allies. We will meet the needs of our Combatant Commanders to prevent conflict, shape their environment, and when necessary, will be available to fight and win decisively any where in the world.
As you all know, essential to any army's success will be our readiness and our modernization. We must invest both time and resources organizing, training, and equipping the Force to rapidly deploy, fight, sustain itself, and win against complex state and non-state adversaries in austere environments and in rugged terrain. We will rebuild the Army's combined arms maneuver and wide area security capabilities by re-investing in our Combat Training Centers, the best centers of their kind in the world. The Combat Training Centers will once again become the centerpiece of training our Brigade Combat Teams and support units for decisive action. We will reinvigorate home station training using live, virtual, and constructive capabilities that provide tough, realistic scenarios to build Soldier, leader and unit competency over time. We will also capitalize upon multi-echelon, Joint and Multinational command post exercises, staff rides, simulations, and Mission Command Training Program events to build regionally capable Joint Forces Land Component Commands and Joint Task Forces.
Take for example the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, who alongside units from the 5th Special Forces Group, 7th Infantry Division, and Air Force units recently executed a joint forcible entry, a combined Non-Combatant Evacuation, and unconventional warfare at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk. Last year, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment participated in Saber Junction 2012 -- the largest and most complex, joint and multinational exercise conducted in Europe in over twenty years. 4,000 U.S. Army Soldiers and 1,800 military personnel from 18 partner nations conducted near simultaneous offense, defense, and stability operations to improve unity of effort and interoperability with our partner nations. Further, this January, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division will conduct a Decisive Action rotation at the National Training Center. All of these exercises are the model for training our Army and U.S. multinational partners on combined arms maneuver and wide area security to meet the needs of today's security environment.
Our modernization programs will remain centered on assuring the American Soldier remains the most discriminately lethal force on the battlefield. We will prioritize the procurement of proven technologies that enhance Soldier and unit lethality, their survivability, their mobility, and network functionality and improve our premier ground and air combat systems. Science and technology investments will seek to maximize the potential of emerging game-changing technologies. It is imperative that we prepare Army units for emerging missions in space, cyberspace, missile defense, counter-WMD, and WMD-elimination missions.
We all know that the foundation of a ready and modern Army is the American Soldier. Over the past twelve years of war, the American Soldier has proven to the American people that when we adapt our formations, training, and equipment to the challenges we face we are the decisive advantage on the battlefield. We have earned the trust of the American people, and now we must preserve that trust by demonstrating our commitment to the Army Profession. We will enforce a professional environment that is free of harassment and promotes and respects the individual dignity of every Soldier and Civilian. We will build the comprehensive physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual resiliency of our Soldiers, Civilians and their Families to enable them to thrive personally and professionally throughout their service.
As Soldiers and Civilians in the Active Army, Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, we celebrate our shared professional ethic, commitment to the defense of this Nation, and legacy of honorable service together since 1775. Together, as a Total Army, we must renew the foundation of our Army's strength by demonstrating the character, competence, and commitment that are the hallmarks of our Army professional.
No one represents the ideals of service more than our past and present Medal of Honor recipients. We are fortunate to have joining us today our two most recent awardees, Staff Sergeant Ty Carter and Captain Will Swenson. There are certain people who are able to step up in the most difficult times and do something extraordinary. No one quite understands what characteristics will cause someone to display incredible courage or sacrifice their own safety -- but I can tell you why they did it.
War has strategic implications and operational implications, but to a Soldier it's very personal. To all of us, but especially to Ty Carter at COP Keating and Will Swenson in the village of Ganjgal, it was about the people on their right and left. It's about the men and women with whom you have lived every second of every moment in difficult situations -- you form a bond that is indescribable, especially in the most difficult situations. It's about that unspoken commitment that you have to each other. Therein lies a greater dedication -- to the mission, to the service, and to the profession. I'd like to ask both Ty Carter and Will Swenson to please stand and be recognized.
What is interesting is that we know they both demonstrated incredible courage, commitment, and sacrifice, but they will be the first to tell you they are not alone. By honoring our Medal of Honor recipients, we honor the heroes who have sacrificed for this Nation, some making the ultimate sacrifice, along with every service member of the All-Volunteer Force who has raised their right hand to defend this country and defend our ideals.
Our overwhelming success as an Army has led many to believe that our Nation's best young men and women will always be willing to serve. However, we must be mindful that we must always have the ability to recruit and retain the best and this is directly linked to how we honor the service and sacrifice of our Soldiers, our Veterans, our Retirees, our Wounded Warriors and their Families. We are extremely grateful for the high quality care and compensation our Nation has shown to our Army over the last decade. However, compensation costs remain at historic highs and are going even higher. Currently, 46% of the Army budget is dedicated to compensation, and today that figure is projected to increase to 80% by 2023. As we go forward, we must develop compensation packages that reduce future costs but at the same time recognize our Soldiers and their Families for their commitment and sacrifice. We must make choices that preserve the high quality of our Force, but allows the All-Volunteer Army to remain affordable.
As I visit our installations across the United States and our units forward deployed around the world, I am humbled every day by the talent and dedicated service of our Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and their Families. It's Soldiers such as SSG Michael H. Ollis, from the 10th Mountain Division, who during an infiltration of his base by insurgents, blocked the path of a suicide bomber and made the ultimate sacrifice to save the life of a nearby Polish officer. His parents will receive his Silver Star in a ceremony at Fort Drum later this week and he will also be honored with the Polish Armed Forces Gold Medal.
It's Soldiers such as CW4 Thomas Oroho will receive the Soldier's Medal next week for his actions to save a young girl and her father from drowning off the coast of Panama City, Florida. It's Soldiers such as SFC John Melson of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, who in August was awarded his fourth Bronze Star Medal, and his first for Valor, during his sixth deployment overseas when he led a team of Army Soldiers and Afghan National Police to fight their way out of an ambush of 250 Taliban fighters. It's Soldiers such as CSM Julie Guerra and SPC Jarett Wright, who have strengthened our Sexual Assault and Harassment Prevention and Response programs by displaying incredible personal courage reporting the crimes committed against them and sharing their stories as survivors. Also, it is Soldiers such as Track and Field Para-Athlete Retired SPC Luis Puertas and Cycling Para-Athlete SPC Elizabeth Wasil, who have shown us the very meaning of personal resiliency with their multiple Gold Medal performances at the 2013 Warrior Games.
Each of these Soldiers and thousands of others represent what every man and woman who dons this uniform strives to be: an individual who has earned the trust of all with whom he associates; one who possesses a humility and selflessness that we all respect; and one who embraces esprit de corps and demonstrates a dedication to their profession that epitomizes the ethos of the American Soldier. These Soldiers represent who we are and who we have been for 238 years. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. We gather strength from the Families around us. We cannot do what we do without the steadfast support of our Families and the American people. We do not take their trust, their support, and the sacrifices our Families make every day for granted.
Even though we continue to have uncertainty in our budget, even though sequestration will hang over our heads, the one thing that remains steadfast in our Army is that the Army will continue to be the most representative of the American people than any other U.S. institution. No matter what the challenge, no matter what the circumstances, our Soldiers will continue to serve with the competence, character and commitment the American people deserve because that's who we are. That's why I'm proud to serve and that's why every service member in uniform is proud to serve. Together, we are the greatest Army in the world. I guarantee everyone here in this audience today, that we will remain the greatest Army in the world. The strength of our Nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our Soldiers. The strength of our Soldiers is our Families. That is what makes us Army Strong.