Ray Odierno

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Ray Odierno, General, United States Army, heads United States Joint Forces Command, a prestigious Unified Combatant Command. [1] Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, however, announced, on 10 August 2010, that he was closing USJFCOM as part of cost-cutting moves.[2] Gates said Odierno would preside over the closing, and then Gates would find him an even better job. GEN James Mattis former USJFCOM commander, moved to United States Central Command as Gen. David Petraeus moved from CENTCOM to the Afghanistan command.

Prior to USJFCOM, he took command of Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) on September 16th, 2008, following his assignment as the Commanding General, U.S. Army III Corps, from May 2006 to September 2008. Prior to that, he had been Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The former MNF-I commander, GEN David Petraeus, then moved up to head United States Central Command, of which MNF-I is a subordinate headquarters.

Multi-National Command-Iraq

He was promoted to the four-star job of commanding MNF-I less than seven months after going back to Washington. General Odierno was the operational architect of the Surge and was responsible for implementing the counterinsurgency strategy that led to the dramatic decrease in violence in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. He is noted for being one of few Army generals in history to command a division, corps and entire theater in the same conflict.

At the MNF-I level, he formed a close civil-military partnership with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. They jointly asked Meghan O'Sullivan to join them as a strategic advisor. Odierno also relies on Emma Sky as a political adviser with a very different perspective.

Transition to Iraqi forces in cities

On 30 June 2009, MNF-I turned over responsibility for Iraqi cities to the Iraqi Security Forces. "It was the right thing to do, and it happened at the right time. It has provided the ISF a psychological lift and has made clear our intent to abide by the agreement. Three years ago, we tried transitioning security responsibilities when the security situation was significantly worse, and the ISF simply were not ready" [3]

Multi-National Corps, Iraq

He commanded Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I), built around U.S. III Corps, from December 2006 to February 2008. completing a 15-month deployment with III Corps from December 2006 to February 2008, then reporting to GEN George Casey at MNF-I.

GEN Jack Keane, who had been U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's choice to replace GEN Eric Shinseki as Chief of Staff of the Army in 2003, had retired instead, needing to care for a sick wife. He stayed involved as a member of the Defense Policy Board and an ABC News analyst, and, along with other retired generals, continued to visit Iraq. In August, his wife found him sitting in the dark, reflecting that the U.S. was about to lose its first war since Vietnam. He decided he had to speak out, and went to visit Rumsfeld on 19 September, concluding the political and military strategy in Iraq was becoming catastrophic. [4]

He felt Casey, GEN John Abizaid (Casey's immediate commander at United States Central Command), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff GEN Peter Pace, and Rumsfeld were unable to cope. [5]

During this time, Odierno, with Keane's support, bypassed Casey to an extent almost unprecedented in U.S. military command; other officers might well have been relieved for insubordination, and he certainly made enemies.[6]

Assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff

As the Assistant, he was the primary military advisor to Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. During this time, he accompanied the Secretary of State on all diplomatic journeys and state visits, traveling over 335,000 miles and visiting over 65 countries, while attending international events ranging from NATO and APEC Summits to Pakistan earthquake relief efforts.

Analysts have described this time as one of great reflection for him, developing quite different approaches to Iraq than as a division commander. He was a protege of GEN Jack Keane, who, while technically retired, was a great influence on redirecting the Iraq War.[7]

4th Infantry Division

From October 2001 to June 2004, General Odierno commanded the 4th Infantry Division, leading the division throughout the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom from April 2003 to March 2004. Originally, the division was to have opened a northern front in the Iraq War, moving south through Turkey, but the Turkish government refused permission for it to attack from there. The division stayed on ships in the Mediterranean for several weeks.

Eventually, it landed in Kuwait, and relieved the 3rd Infantry Division, which had been the lead Army unit in the Iraq War, major combat phase. The unit was headquartered in the restive Sunni triangle north of Baghdad, and in a significant accomplishment late in the deployment, Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division captured former President Saddam Hussein near his hometown of Tikrit in December 2003.

The 4th Division, however, was seen as taking an aggressive, perhaps overly aggressive, role toward the Iraqi insurgency. Odierno, at the time, was a peer of then-MG David Petraeus, then commanding the 101st Airborne Division in Northern Iraq. Petraeus had taken a more interactive approach, and was known as a counterinsurgency thinker. When he was promoted to lieutenant general, he went to the Combined Arms Center, Training and Doctrine Command, at Fort Leavenworth, and personally led the rewrite of the military's counterinsurgency manual. While Petraeus would soon outrank Odierno, the two men, somewhat different in personality, became an effective team.

Early career

A native of northern New Jersey, General Odierno attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1976 with a commission in Field Artillery. During more than 33 years of service, General Odierno has commanded units at every echelon, from platoon to theater, with duty in Germany, Albania, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United States. After his first assignment with U.S. Army Europe, General Odierno was assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he commanded two batteries and served as a battalion operations officer.

Following advanced civilian and military schooling, General Odierno returned to U.S. Army Europe and the 7th Army, serving as a battalion executive officer, division artillery executive officer, and brigade executive officer, deploying in that capacity for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. He later commanded 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery, 7th Infantry Division, and the Division Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division.

His other significant assignments include Arms Control Officer, Office of the Secretary of Defense; Chief of Staff, V Corps; Assistant Division Commander (Support), 1st Armored Division (U.S.); Deputy Commanding General, Task Force Hawk, Albania; Director of Force Management, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans

Education

General Odierno has a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point and master’s degrees in Nuclear Effects Engineering and National Security and Strategy from North Carolina State University and the Naval War College, respectively. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army War College.

Recognition

Awards and decorations earned by General Odierno include two awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, six awards of the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, four awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Badge. He received the highest award in the State Department, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, and recently the Romanian President awarded General Odierno the Romanian Order of Military Merit. General Odierno is the 2009 recipient of the Naval War College Distinguished Graduate Leadership Award for his strategic leadership and insight

References

  1. Anne Gearan and Kevin Maurer, "Military sources: New US commander for Iraq", Associated Press
  2. Craig Whitlock (10 August 2010), "Pentagon to cut thousands of jobs, defense secretary says", Washington Post
  3. Ray Odierno (4th Quarter 2009), "An Interview with Raymond T. Odierno", Joint Forces Quarterly
  4. Linda Robinson (2009), Tell Me How This Ends: General David Petraeus an the Search for a Way out of Iraq, Public Affairs, ISBN 9781586465283, pp. 30-31
  5. Thomas Ricks (2009), The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008, Penguin, ISBN 9781594201974, pp. 81-83
  6. Ricks, pp. 91-92
  7. Ricks, p. 8