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Soldiers top priority for new CSA

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Sept. 09, 2011) -- A day after being sworn in as the new chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Ray Odierno laid out some priorities for his tenure.

Among those are ensuring the continued training and preparation of Soldiers to provide a ready force to combatant commanders, the development of Army leaders, the strengthening of family programs, and a desire for all Soldiers to be able to tell the "Army story."

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"Soldiers are the strength of our Army," Odierno said during a media roundtable event Thursday. "I must continue to provide trained and ready forces to Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places around the world where our presence is required. I also have to look to the future, 40 years out, and develop what I believe it is the right versatile mix of capabilities, formations and equipment which have the key characteristics that I think will be important in the future."

Leadership development to accommodate the future environment is also critical, Odierno said. Future leaders must be adaptable, agile, and able to operate in a threat environment that includes a combination of regular warfare, irregular warfare, terrorist activity, and criminality.

"We have to adapt their leader development programs," Odierno said. "We have incredibly good leaders today, but we have to continue to develop them to address the many complex problems that I think we're going to face in the future."

The general said the best leaders create environments that allow individuals to grow and trust their subordinates.

"The best units I have ever been associated with are those who think they're really good, who have an environment where people feel deal they are empowered, and they work together collectively to achieve a goal," Odierno said. "We can't have leaders who are risk averse, we can't have leaders who are micro-managers and don't trust their subordinates -- [that's ] the kind of toxic leadership that we can't afford."

Odierno also said Soldier and family programs must be strengthened, and redundancies across programs must be removed to ensure the Army has "just the best programs that are capable of helping our families."

Additionally, he wants Soldiers to make themselves available to tell the Army story.

"I think the Army has a great story, and I think sometimes we don't tell that story," he said, saying Soldiers and leaders must "make ourselves available to discuss the issues, to discuss what's good about our Army."

Budget and personnel cuts, Odierno said, will likely leave the Army smaller -- perhaps even smaller than the 520,000 directed by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

"The initial reduction [to] 520,000, I think we all think is reasonable, based on the assumptions. And the assumption of that was that we would be coming out of Afghanistan in 2014," he said. "So if that assumption bears out, that number is one we certainly can sustain."

But Odierno wasn't sure the initial plans for that many Soldiers would pan out in the end.

"Do I think we'll end up at 520,000? Probably not," he said.

The Army's new chief said what's important is that force reductions happen at a pace that allows the service to maintain its capabilities.

"The important piece here when we talk about force structure and troop strength reductions is that we do it in such a way that we allow ourselves the flexibility and capability to expand," he said. "My comments have been: be careful of going too small too fast. And the reason I say that is because if you go too small too fast, it takes away your flexibility."

If the Army would still be able to fight two wars at the same time with troop reductions is also something Odierno said is being looked at carefully now.

"We're still doing some analysis," he said. "I think at 520, we could probably do it fairly close. Below 520, I don't know."

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