KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Sept. 24, 2012) -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno visited the Regional Command (South) area of operations in Afghanistan, including Forward Operating Base Zangabad, near the horn of Panjwai, Sept. 18.
Odierno's main priorities during the visit were to meet Soldiers conducting operations in the area, learn first hand about the issues they are up against and how they are working with Afghan National Security Forces, or ANSF, to conduct operations.
"It's important for me as the provider of Army forces here, around the world and especially in Afghanistan, to come and get a first-hand look and talk to the leadership here and also to get a chance to talk to our Soldiers to understand what they're thinking, what they're needs are and to let them know what I'm thinking," said Odierno. "Today I had the opportunity to sit down and meet with an Afghan brigade commander, and he talked me through what they had done in order to build their capabilities."
Odierno also wants to make sure Afghan security officials are making inside-the-wire threat mitigation a priority.
"In the back of our minds, is obviously this problem with the insider threats," he said. "We're working very hard to understand what are the right tactics, techniques and procedures; and also [we're] ensuring that the Afghan commanders understand their responsibility to ensure that our Soldiers working with them remain safe."
Making sure that Soldiers are being taken care of and have what they need to be successful is a high priority for the Army Chief of Staff.
"Always, my first priority is to make sure that when [Soldiers] come here they're trained, they're ready, they're manned at the right levels, they have the equipment they need to be successful - that's number one," Odierno explained. "Second, is to ensure once they get over here, do they have the facilities and do they have the capabilities to execute the mission to standard? And then finally, it's just really about checking: Are we implementing our lessons learned?"
After meeting with International Security Assistance Force and ANSF leadership about tough questions like these, Odierno spent the remainder of his time here visiting with junior-level Soldiers.
"I have been deployed several times to Iraq [and] I've visited Afghanistan on several occasions, and the thing that never, ever changes is the professionalism and preparedness of our Soldiers," said Odierno. "As I've had the opportunity to go around and visit them first hand, I am so impressed with their dedication, not only to the mission, but their dedication to each other."
He administered the Oath of Reenlistment to 18 Soldiers and awarded various medals to about 20 more, including medals for valor and Purple Hearts. Following the awards presentation, he spoke directly to Soldiers and sat down with them for lunch.
"These are young men and women who are just dedicated to our nation and to our Army, and continue to work so hard," he said. "I'm so very honored that I had the opportunity to work with them, and lead them in the Army."