By Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno January 20, 2012
There is a lesson here that no matter what you do, your past can come back to haunt you. (Laughter) As many of you know, we were at Army War College at the same time. A lot of people used to say that attending the War College was an opportunity to recharge. Most of the people who attended had just come out of Battalion Command or some other equally demanding job. So, after reading our assignments and writing our papers, we took the opportunity to relax and enjoy our time with our Families and friends. Also, back when I went to Army War College, the standards of academic rigor might not have been as great as they are today (Laughter), so we might have a little more time to play sports. It was really a great experience.
I also want to thank my great friend, Steve Speakes, whom I have worked with in several different capacities over the last ten years. Steve was a terrific leader on Active Duty. Then after serving 35 years, Steve retired and now works for USAA. He has taken on another responsibility because he wants to continue to serve his Army. He wants to continue to serve his Soldiers. So he has taken on a new post as the Chapter President of the Alamo Chapter of AUSA. So Steve, thank you so much for your continued leadership and more importantly your friendship. I really appreciate it.
I am not surprised that Chapter of the year comes from the great state of Texas. It is no secret that I enjoy coming to San Antonio. In fact, this is my third trip since being Chief. It is the place I have been most. Although I will say when it is getting towards June, July, August, you might not see me as much down here in San Antonio. (Laughter) But coming in November, December, January, February, it is a pretty good place. And I found a piece of property out here somewhere; maybe someday I will get a chance to enjoy it.
I also want to thank Mr. Trey Cleaver, the Civilian Advisor to Secretary of the Army, who continues to reach out to the community, and who continues to be such an advocate for the Army, and I thank you so much for that. Obviously I wanted to have my right hand man, Sergeant Major of the Army Ray Chandler and his wife Gina are here today. We are great partners. He is my eyes and ears. He gets out and he gets to see things that I don't. He is able to see me on a regular basis and tell me what is right and what isn't right. He is a great asset to me and has a great career in the military. Thank you for your support and contributions.
I would also like to thank some other people of the Alamo chapter. I would like to start by thanking all of you that support the many units of Soldiers and Army families throughout the greater San Antonio area. As the AUSA's National Chapter of the Year, you clearly are setting the standard. You make positive difference by recognizing the extraordinary efforts of our Soldiers and our great Army civilians who work in the community. Your support to Army families whose Warriors and survivors is greatly appreciated. You are physically involved in the community by working and organizing Veterans Day commemorations, September 11th observances, and other great patriotic events, bringing attention to the rest of the people of San Antonio about the contributions of our military, and specifically our Army here in the greater San Antonio area.
You have assisted us in making the All American Bowl Week, which is this week, a first class event, one that is seen world wide and one that in my mind gives the Army some good attention. Specifically you talk about the great young men and women who participate in this, whether it be the Army band, whether it be football players, whether it be all the others that come around and participate. There is nothing more important than a young man being given an opportunity to succeed in life, and there is nothing better to give them than an opportunity to be a part of our Army, and to be able to talk to them about what this great Army is about. Thank you so much for supporting that. You fund academic scholarships, you promote professional dialogue by hosting symposiums, and mutual conferences. The list could go on and on, but I know that the magnificent efforts you are making are having a positive effect.
I would like to pause and recognize three individuals who have been instrumental in this. First, as I said earlier, Steve Speakes, Chapter President, where I know the Chapter will continue to grow. I also want to recognize Bradley Freeman, who served as the Chapter President until this Summer, and continues to volunteer his time and energy to support the Alamo Chapter. And finally, Ms. Barbara Hagen, the Vice President for Programs, who was instrumental in making today's events possible. So lets give these three great leaders a round of applause. (Applause).
When I came down here I had a choice, I had a classmate who knew all my dark secrets and then I had my own traditional Chaplain who knows a lot of my ROTC jokes already so…I want to thank you so much for being here. I probably don't have to tell you this, but I think it is important that I talk about how important the greater San Antonio region is for our Army and for the Joint Force. In total there are over 80,000 Servicemen and civilians and contain some military installations covered over 50,000 acres. For the Army it is the home for four of our key Commands: Installation Management Command, Army Medical Command, US Army South, and US Army North. I want to take a couple of minutes to highlight some key accomplishments of each of these Commands, touch on the strategic environment, and then take a little time to talk about the way forward for our Army.
I will start off with Installation Management Command. Under Lt. General Mike Ferriter's leadership, as well as his predecessor, Lt. General Lynch, this team provides quality service and support to our families. As I often talk about, our families are the strength of our Soldiers; they have endured and sacrificed much over the last ten years. This Command has helped us to recognize and establish key family initiatives such as resiliency programs, Survivor Outreach Services, Warrior Transition Units, and important continuing education programs for our Soldiers, our families and the children of our families. They have established strong family advocacy programs to identify issues to both the Army leadership and Congress. Now as we face budget reductions, we will remain dedicated to ensuring our key family programs remain. But we will eliminate redundancy, and we will sustain only those programs that most benefit our Soldiers and families, and Installation Management Command (IMCOM) will play a large role in identifying them.
What a lot of people take for granted is that IMCOM also plays a role in preparing and deploying our forces, as well as sustaining them in remote locations. Many people don't realize IMCOM has people deployed all around the world. They run some of our installations in Afghanistan, for example. Our Army mans, trains and deploys at over 184 installations globally, requires world class facilities, and infrastructures. So in short, IMCOM is critical to our Army success by ensuring we have deployable forces, our Soldiers are trained and ready, and we have high quality of life for our Soldiers and families.
Another national treasure in San Antonio is the Army Medical Command, an organization whose impact extends far beyond the Army, to the national and international levels. Over the past decade, this innovative, talented team constructed unprecedented chain of care from battlefields across the globe to world-class medical centers back here at home. They care for almost 10,000 Warriors medically evacuated for combat wounds and continue to do so today. They set a new standard of care for our Wounded Warriors. These Warriors pledge an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Our duty now is to care for them and heal them. Our Medical Command's dedication and expertise ensure we honor this solemn responsibility. But not only do they honor that responsibility, they honor the responsibility they have to our families and our children, and our retirees to provide them the quality medical care that they so richly deserve for their sacrifices. Army Medical Command is a national leader in the areas of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, pain management, and many other areas. Our Soldiers know when they go into combat, an adventure standing behind them, standing along side of them, is the best medical care anywhere in the world today. That truly makes a difference as you get yourself mentally ready to fight our nation's wars.
US Army North is what our US Army commands. Since 2004 our Army war professionals have established themselves as a vital and incredibly capable organization. Army North is dedicated to homeland defense, civil support, security cooperation in North America, partnering with both Mexico and Canada. Their charge is simple: to protect the American people and our way of life, but carrying out this carter is not that simple. These are unique missions that require rofessionals willing and able to achieve unity of effort in an incredibly complex environment. For example they oversee the Defense Department's counter-drug and counter-narcotic terrorism taskforce on our Southwest border. Additionally they lead the response to natural and man-made disasters whenever they might occur in the United States. Just a few months ago the Army North expertly provided disaster relief in support of Hurricane Irene. Americans peaceably sleep in their beds at night because Army North stands ready, not only to protect our borders, but to provide immediate and capable response, lending natural disaster support to our civil authorities, wherever that might be in the United States.
Last but not least is US Army South. Like other theatre Armies, Army South stands ready to respond to no notice contingencies throughout the South Comm area of responsibility. They help shape the environment in Latin America and the Caribbean by sustaining strong military relationships, enhancing mutual capabilities, and improving interoperability with the Armies and security forces in the region. Ensuring professional militaries subservient to civil control goes a long way towards sustaining long term stability. We are rightfully proud of the outstanding work that Army South does with our southern partners on a daily basis to promote peace, to ensure access, and to ensure freedom.
Along with the achievements of our San Antonio based Commands, our entire Army has done remarkable things over the past decade. Since 2001, over 1.2 million Soldiers from all components have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, many having served multiple 12 -15 month deployments. As you all know, we have just marked the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. I could not be more proud of what our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines have accomplished in Iraq. No one could have imagined back in 2006, when Iraq was in the midst of civil war, security was deteriorating. No one understood how we would move forward. They didn't understand the will of the American Soldier. They didn't understand the capacity and capability of the American Soldier. Through hard work, adaptability, leadership and sacrifice they turned Iraq around. They reduced the level of violence over 95%. They gave the opportunity to the Iraqi people to choose for themselves their leaders, to choose whether they want to be a democracy, to choose how they want to move forward. No other military in the world could have made that happen. That is why I am so proud of wearing this uniform. Just as the World War II generation defeated tyranny across the globe, this new generation bravely defeated tyranny too. As President Obama recently stated, our Soldiers crossed the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, closing one of the most extraordinary chapters in the history of the American Military.
In Afghanistan our Soldiers continue to bravely fight and train Afghan forces. I just returned from them two weeks ago, impressed with the remarkable progress being made in defeating the Taliban and transitioning security responsibilities to the Afghan security forces. Our engagements are not just limited to Afghanistan now. Across the globe there are over 200,000 Soldiers forward stationed or deployed in over 100 countries, standing ready to respond to any contingency and ensure our allies in places like the Korean Peninsula, the Horn of Africa, Philippines, Kuwait, Kosovo, and of course here in the homeland, are prepared and ready.
For the past decade of war, the Soldiers of our US Army have earned nearly 14,000 Awards for Valor. Why don't you think about that for a minute: 14,000 Awards for Valor, including six Medals of Honor, 23 Distinguished Service Crosses, and over 600 Silver Stars. We also remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and our Wounded Warriors. We remember our Gold Star Families, who have sacrificed so much, and all of our loved ones who have been touched by the horror of war. More than 4500 Soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice. And over 32,000 have been wounded; 12,000 of those required long term care. Our Soldiers have performed courageously and selflessly answered our nation's call.
As we look forward toward the future, we face a complex and dynamic strategic environment, marked by uncertainty, regional transnational threats, as well as global terror are still significant. I would argue that the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya has just begun, and that its outcomes are still very unclear. Rising powers, failing states, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, all present additional risks and threaten stability. There are emerging challenges in both cyber and space domains, as well as contested access to the global commons. The impacts of globalization and increased communications and access to information also contribute to the complexity of international landscapes with which we now live.
Finally, all of this uncertainty is underpinned by our own fiscal crisis, both in the United States and globally. The United States is not immune to this fiscal crisis. As announced yesterday by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman, our military will get leaner, but we will continue to increase our agility, our flexibility. We will be innovative as we move forward, and we will be ready. What this means to the Army is that we must provide the nation flexibility to respond to wide array of challenges that we might face. That includes applying the hard lessons learned over ten years of sustained combat as we transition into the years ahead. While we will get smaller, the Army will remain the best manned, the best equipped, the best trained, and the best led force in the world today.
In this regard, my top priorities are as follows: first, to provide trained, equipped and ready forces to win the current fight in Afghanistan or wherever else we might be. We will never sacrifice our readiness to respond. Second, to develop an Army for the future as part of the Joint Force of 2020: a versatile mix of capabilities and formations and equipment that will enable us to fight across a broad spectrum; that will enable us to respond against a dynamic hybrid threat of conventional, unconventional, terrorism and criminality. Thirdly, we will sustain our high quality all volunteer Army. Next it is important that we adapt our leader development program in order to develop leaders who will thrive in complex environments. We ask much more of our young leaders today than we ever did when I was a young Captain. So we have to prepare them. We have to provide them the opportunities and the training and the thought processes to solve the complex problems that this complex world continues to develop. Finally it is important that we stay true to ourselves and invigorate our commitment to the profession of arms. What we do is a noble calling, founded on the bedrock of trust. We must not ever forget that.
As we execute our new national strategy, the Army has three principle, interconnected roles within this strategy. The first is to prevent conflict. We do this my maintaining our credibility. Our credibility is based on our capacity, our readiness, our modernization, and our leadership, mitigating the risk of miscalculation by those who might have the thought that we are no longer a state force. Second, we must shape the environment through strong military relationships with allies, building partner capacity and facilitating access around the world. As I know, (maybe not too many other people know), as you look around the world, the dominating service of every country in the world (nobody has proved me wrong yet) is the Army. So for us to shape and for us to be able to engage, it is important the Army get involved throughout the world building relationships in order for us to gain access with these Armies. Seven out of the ten largest Armies in the world are in the Pacific. We must be engaged with them.
Finally we stand ready if necessary to win our nation's wars. But we don't win; we win dominantly and decisively. And we win dominantly and decisively across the entire spectrum of conflict, no matter what we are asked. So the Army has a real role: prevent, shape, win. That is what an Army is for. As I mentioned earlier, I had the privilege of visiting our great Soldiers in Afghanistan just prior to Christmas. While the progress is impressive, even more so is the morale and courage of these great Soldiers and the focus and dedication of our leaders. They believe in their mission, but most importantly, they know they are winning.
I am truly honored and humbled to serve in the ranks of these great men and women that serve our nation. And to everyone here today thank you for your service to our nation, and for you and what you do to support for our great Army. In our profession, as I said earlier, nothing is more important than the bedrock of trust: trust between Soldiers, trust between Soldiers and leaders, trust between Soldiers and families and the Army, and trust between the Army and the American people. Our Army is one of our nation's most trusted institutions. It is up to us and upon us to keep it that way. This did not occur by happenstance. It has been earned and maintained through deeds. With the leadership of the Fort Sam Houston and the greater San Antonio community, I know we will sustain that trust in the future. Just remember that the strength of our nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our Soldiers. The strength of our Soldiers is our families, and that is what makes us Army Strong. Thank you so much and God bless America.