By Staff Sgt. Derek M. Smith, 362nd Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentSeptember 9, 2011
BAGHDAD -- The future inherently lends itself to uncertainty, doubt and confusion. Service members of Operation New Dawn face the looming question of what is to become of America's mission in Iraq at year's end, compounded with impending budget cuts to the military on the home front. Fortunately, in the opinion of many, a tried and trusted leader has taken on a new role.
The "operational architect" of the surge that "turned the tide" in Iraq accepted a new challenge as Gen. Raymond T. Odierno was sworn in as the Army's 38th chief of staff in a ceremony on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Sept. 7. Odierno assumed responsibility from outgoing chief of staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.
Odierno said the mission now is to maintain a trained and ready Army to ensure U.S. forces succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He emphasized that maintaining the nation's all-volunteer military in the face of budget cuts will be a challenge.
"Today is like no other in our history," the 1976 West Point graduate said during his address. "It is a time of uncertainty and historic change. We face a multitude of security challenges, such as transnational and regional terrorism … All of that is underpinned by our own fiscal challenges."
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta praised Odierno after the ceremony, praising the general's service record over his 35-year career. He referred to the general as the operational architect of the troop surge in Iraq that "turned the tide" of operations in 2007 when he was commander of Multi-National Corp-Iraq.
Odierno then served as commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq from September 2008 to December 2009 during "a very crucial time when our military was trying to make sure we lock in the gains that were made with the surge," said Panetta.
After operations changed, Odierno continued to serve as commander, United States Force-Iraq, from January 2010 to September 2010.
Odierno maintained during his confirmation hearings that he believes the U.S. should support the Iraqi government in whatever capacity the two countries can come to an agreement on, noting increased Iranian activity in Iraq.
The newly sworn chief also advised careful planning and realistic approaches to the decisions which lie ahead.
"We must avoid our historical pattern of drawing down too fast and getting too small," the general explained. "Especially since our record of predicting the future is frankly not a very good one. So as we make difficult resource decisions, we must be thoughtful and understanding of the risk we incur to the future security of this great nation."
During his address, Odierno took pause to reflect on the events which led him to this day and the service members who accompanied him along the way.
"This weekend is the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I would just say that over the last 10 years our Army has proven itself; inarguably in the most difficult environment this nation has ever faced. Our leaders of every level have displayed unparalleled ingenuity, flexibility and adaptability. Our soldiers have displayed mental and physical toughness, but most importantly, courage under fire. They have transformed the Army into the most versatile, agile, rapidly deployable, sustainable, strategic land force the world has ever known. I am proud to be part of that army. And I am proud to have the opportunity to continue to serve with these great men and women - the next greatest generation."