YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea (Jan. 14, 2013) -- The U.S. Army chief of staff said American Soldiers will play a major role in the U.S. military's shift to the Pacific, during a visit to the region Jan. 10-11.

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno championed the U.S. Army's commitment to the Asia Pacific region during stops in Hawaii and South Korea.

Odierno met with Republic of Korea Army Chief of Staff Cho Jung-hwan; Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea; and Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson in South Korea.

According to the chief of staff, the U.S. Army has almost 70,000 Soldiers assigned in the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations, a region that spans 16 time zones and 9,000 miles and stretches from the U.S. west coast to the Indian Ocean.

In its 237-year history, the United States Army has served with distinction in the Asia Pacific region. Out of its 181 battle streamers, 63 of them were earned in the Pacific.

During his second trip to South Korea since taking office in September 2011, Odierno said the U.S. Army will leverage its capabilities to build partner capacity and strengthen military-to-military relations across the region.

"We expect to help the [Pacific Command] commander to set the theater with logistical, signal and support capabilities," said Odierno, "as well as providing more ability to conduct military-to-military relations."

Odierno said building stronger military-to-military relations is the key "to develop relationships which are so important in this region that the United States considers essential to our own security as well as to our commitment to the security of other nations in this region."

Odierno said American troops stationed in South Korea will continue to play an important role in defending liberty on the peninsula and providing security in the region, which is home to four of the world's six largest militaries and more than 25 percent of total U.S. trade.

South Korea is also home to Eighth Army, the U.S. Army's premier armored formation on the Asian mainland. Called the Pacific Victors, Eighth Army Soldiers have served in the Pacific since 1944. Eighth Army liberated more 60 islands in the Pacific during World War II, served in the occupation force in Japan and commanded ground forces as the only U.S. Field Army in the Korean War.

Eighth Army has been stationed on the Korean Peninsula ever since, serving as a bulwark against renewed North Korean aggression.

Odierno said the U.S. Army remains committed to its enduring alliance with South Korea.

"The United States Army is committed to sustaining the same level of commitment that we have over the years to our great partners here on the Korean Peninsula," said Odierno, who served as commander of Multinational Forces-Iraq and U.S. Joint Forces Command prior to becoming the Army chief of staff. "I continue to talk to our Soldiers about how thankful they are for all of the support they get from the Korean people."