By Lt. Col. Koné FaulknerFebruary 11, 2014
IZMAR, Turkey (Feb. 11, 2014) -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno visited with NATO Land Component Command Headquarters personnel here, Feb. 4, to discuss the future of the Army and its NATO relationship.
Odierno was given a presentation outlining NATO Land Component Command's, or LANDCOM's status on achieving initial operational capability and the current road to obtaining full operational capability by Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, LANDCOM commander.
This was the chief's first visit to Izmir and he was primarily interested in the missions and critical concerns of LANDCOM. Odierno reinforced his commitment to improve cooperation between U.S. Army Europe, or USAREUR, and LANDCOM, particularly focusing on interoperability and training.
"This command is critical to ensuring we continue our relationships with our European allies and counterparts. Hodges and this staff are engaged in numerous exercises and discussions throughout NATO and Europe strengthening our commitment to peace and stability in the region," Odierno said. "I think this is a very important piece of where NATO is going in the future."
Following the presentation, Odierno explained that his No. 1 priority is to develop leaders who can operate in a decentralized environment.
"As an alliance, it's key for us to do this together to deal with efforts to improve interoperability," he said, adding that the NATO Alliance cannot lose what it's gained in the past 10 years in Afghanistan. "It's up to us to ensure we are available and retain the capabilities already learned and improve upon them ... I worry we'll all go back in our corners."
The general explained he has focused future planning to align a unit in U.S. Army Europe to have a permanent relationship with NATO, due to the importance of the alliance and U.S. maintaining current capabilities.
"I'm trying to build Grafenwoehr (Germany) to be a place of joint and multinational interoperability," he said. "I am taking a hard look at what we need to do at Grafenwoehr to improve our capability."
Hodges expressed that was exactly in line with what he has tasked LANDCOM to do with the planned series of upcoming exercises, culminating in Trident Lance 2014, at Grafenwoehr near the end of the year.
"We have to answer the question -- how can we put pressure on the system to insure we improve and are capable to support players as mandated," Hodges said. "We are not asking the U.S. to spend more dollars on anything. It's about maximizing interoperability."
Odierno pointed out that this was a broadening assignment for U.S. Soldiers who get the opportunity to be assigned to LANDCOM because the organization crosses three of his priorities for the Army. The first he outlined was in leader development.
"The dynamics of quickly moving information around the world will require decentralized leadership to keep up. We must insure Soldiers are trained and ready. We have to stay focused on readiness and training," he said.
The second goal is to be a more globally responsive and regionally engaged Army with strategic and expeditionary mindsets.
"We've been spoiled over years due to the deployments to maturely developed areas of operations. The future will not be that way," Odierno said. "We will have to be prepared for regional engagements by aligning [units] with regions in the world and [we] must stay connected. Although the number of Soldiers is going down, we will still fully participate in exercises.
"In the future, we will have to be creative and create smaller, more capable units that are faster. We can do this by leveraging new technologies out there," he continued. "Units will be aligned to regions to become familiar with local and regional concerns and retain a political understanding."
Odierno's third priority is to improve the Army's technology.
"We will need new technology over the next 10 years to make a leaner and more capable Army. We must have technology to retain mobility, while maintaining survivability across the spectrum [of military operations] ... we must be capable of meeting future threats," he said. "We are committed to NATO and will remain committed to NATO. This is an important headquarters, and I see it as important in improving that [U.S.] relationship [with NATO]."
He explained it had been a priority for him to visit the LANDCOM headquarters.
"This is just the beginning of where the alliance is going. We are at an important point in NATO's history," Odierno said. "As we are getting ready to finish our relationship in Afghanistan, it sets the stage for the future. We can use NATO as a force to maintain stability around the world ... this command is important in doing just that."
While in Turkey, Odierno met with his counterpart, Gen. Hulusi Akar, commander of the Turkish Land Forces; and Gen. Necdet Ozel, chief of the Turkish General Staff.
"I want to thank the Turkish government in providing such an illustrious place for this HQ. Turkey is a trusted NATO ally of the United States and a critical partner in the region. We value and respect our Turkish allies," he said.
Odierno also participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Ataturk Mausoleum to honor and pay respect to the founder of the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish Armed Forces.