By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Oct. 23, 2013) -- Ground forces, including Soldiers, Marines and special operations troops, will continue to play a critical role in supporting America's defense and joint fight, despite the opinions of "intellectuals" who might believe otherwise, said the Army's chief of staff.
"I worry about this discussion that land power is something that is obsolete," said Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno. "There is nothing further from the truth. There are a lot of intellectuals out there who believe land power is obsolete. In my opinion, as I have said before, it is na´ve and in fact, in my mind, it is a dangerous thought."
Odierno discussed the future of strategic land power alongside counterparts from both the Marine Corps and Special Operations Command during a panel discussion Oct. 23 at the 2013 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition, in Washington, D.C.
A theme common within the periodic discussions on the demise of the importance of land forces and ground troops is that technology -- whether it be missiles, aviation assets, or remotely controlled vehicles -- will replace the need for boots on the ground. That is something Odierno disputes as well.
"There are many people that believe that through technology advancement, we can solve all of the issues of warfare," Odienro said. "I absolutely reject that concept. What I do agree with is technological advances can support us in attaining our goals."
Warfare is about human interaction, not about machines, the general said.
"It is people who make decisions and you have to be able to compel people. Yes, you can use technology to help you compel people. But ultimately it requires, in my opinion, an interaction on the ground."
The Army has had 12 years now to develop expertise in the "human domain" of war fighting, one of three concepts Odierno said "intersect in his mind" when he thinks about strategic land power. The other two are land power and the cyber domain.
"Human interaction in a complex environment is key to our success in the future," he said. "It is going to require a joint force that is skilled in understanding the physical, cognitive, the information, cultural and social environments we have to operate in the future."
After 12 years of developing a mastery of the human domain, he said, the Army doesn't want to lose those skills. The Army has now built the concept into its training at Army combat training centers like the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., and the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
"We are going to get back to sending 25 to 30 units through CTCs each year. That's the intent as we go forward," he said.
"We are reinvigorating our combat training centers. And in our combat training centers, you are going to have to do this," Odierno said. "This is embedded in all of our future training. We are going to continue to revise it and update it."
Also bolstering the Army's expertise within the human dimension is the interaction that Soldiers have with allied militaries as part of the Army's regionally aligned forces concept.
Under RAF, the Army continues to cycle units overseas to combatant commanders to help develop the military skills of partner nations though combined exercises and training. At the same time, Soldiers involved continue to develop their own skills in understating other cultures and other parts of the world.