By Vince LittleMarch 12, 2012
FORT BENNING, Ga. (March 12, 2012) -- Infantry Soldiers in one-station unit training heard directly from the Army chief of staff Friday.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno talked about the importance of duty in a brief address to trainees in 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment's A and F companies, who stood in formation inside Briant Wells Fieldhouse. The appearance took place just before the Army spring game at nearby Doughboy Stadium.
"This is a privilege not only for me but for you as well, whether you realize it or not," Lt. Col. Michael Hastings, the battalion commander, told the group. "This is a distinct privilege for you to have the chief of staff speak to you about duty."
Odierno, who became the 38th Army chief of staff in September, has served for 36 years and now oversees all 560,000 U.S. Soldiers around the globe. He had previously been the head of U.S. Joint Forces Command. From September 2008 to September 2010, the general was commander of U.S. Forces-Iraq.
As he speaks to men and women in uniform worldwide, Odierno said he thinks often about responsibility and duty and how an all-volunteer force carries out those Army values. That's an anomaly in the multinational picture, he said, as very few countries can make the same claim -- many others require military commitments.
"I want to thank you for the fact you raised your right hand and said, 'I want to support the Constitution of the United States,'" he said. "You've chosen to do that. That's your first step toward duty."
Less than one1 percent of all Americans opt to make that pledge, he added.
"You're in a select few," he said. "You're part of a team that can accomplish almost anything we put our minds to. You are now joining the finest organization in the world. The United States Army is the best Army in the world -- the best, uncontested. Nobody argues about that."
Odierno said Soldiers and people separate the Army from the pack.
"It's not about airplanes, ships, tanks or Bradleys. It's about you," he told the Soldiers. "We develop the best leaders who care about their Soldiers (and) want to have the highest standards. They want to push their Soldiers to do things they didn't realize they could do."
The chief of staff said trust within the ranks is critical, calling it the Army's "foundation."
"When you're on the battlefield in a very tough situation -- chaos is breaking out all around -- you must have complete trust in your fellow Soldier to your right or to your left, that they will be there for you when you need them," he said. "Trust is earned by working together, it's earned by being mentally and physically tough."
"No matter where I go, if I'm in a combat zone and something happens to me, I know I can rely on anybody who wears this uniform, that they will do everything they can to make sure I'm safe and get me home. That's what trust is. It's having trust in your institution."
Soldiers work in the profession of arms, and the Army features a select group of individuals who made the choice to be part of something greater than themselves, Odierno said.
"It's about moral and ethical values. It's about making sure we look out for each other," he said, "because we're going to ask you to do things we don't ask anybody else to do, that most people don't get to do."
Odierno urged the Soldiers to think about duty, trust and honor as they move forward in their training and careers. They'll represent not only the Army but the United States in the many places they go, he said.
"People will expect someone who'll do what's right morally and ethically, and that they'll be the best at what they do. And I know you're all headed in that direction," he said.
The general reiterated his pride in the Soldiers for choosing to enter the Army and be part of this profession.
"And now, what I want you to do is follow through on it," he said. "Work hard every day, make yourself a better person. Continue to improve yourself so you can help your teammates, platoon mates and squad mates. Remember, look out for each other. That's what we're about."
During his visit to Fort Benning, Odierno got a progress report on Maneuver Center of Excellence priorities and updates from the Infantry and Armor schoolhouses. He also toured the National Infantry Museum and attended the Army spring scrimmage.