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Odierno: Army's focus in Africa on training

Jun. 20, 2012 - 05:39PM   |   Last Updated: Jun. 20, 2012 - 05:39PM  |  
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno speaks June 20 during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno speaks June 20 during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. (Getty Images)
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The Army is looking to preposition stocks of equipment to keep them close to potential global flashpoints and assist with multilateral training missions with partner nations.

One of the places critical to this new program is Australia, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said Wednesday during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

"We're working with the Australians where we can do multilateral training," he said, adding that "one of the concepts we're looking at, [is] putting prepositioned equipment there ... then bring countries from around the region in to conduct multilateral efforts."

While not naming specific nations, Odierno said the Army is looking to do the same thing in Africa, adding that the train and advise mission is "going to be more and more important as we go forward" in a post-Iraq and Afghanistan era.

Army officials have already said that early plans call for about 11,000 MRAPs to be prepositioned around the globe.

Odierno said the Army's role will likely shift toward performing more advisory missions, beginning with assigning a Brigade Combat Team to the AFRICOM command in 2013 to act as a pilot program for the Regionally Aligned Force concept, which aims to marry brigades with certain countries and regions to give units a deeper understanding of the culture and politics of different regions around the globe.

Africa is becoming increasingly important to the Army's plans due in no small part to the fact that "terrorist elements around the world go to the areas they think has the least resistance," the chief said, "and right now, you could argue that's Africa."

But just as the White House and the Pentagon begin to shift their gaze toward the Pacific region, and as the Air Force and the Navy push their Air-Sea Battle concept, the Army has been forcefully making the case that it also has an interest in the region.

One way of staying involved is through engagement and training efforts, including the prepositioned stocks plan. Odierno said that efforts to conduct multilateral training will focus "on the Pacific and other areas where we have not done that in the past."

Odierno stressed that there are already 66,000 soldiers stationed in the Pacific area of operations, and because these troops no longer will be rotated in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, "one of the first priorities I have is making sure that they remain dedicated to the Pacific region."

As he has done repeatedly in recent months, Odierno reiterated that 22 of the 27 heads of their respective defense departments in the Pacific come from their land forces, and seven of the 10 largest armies are located in the Pacific region.

Closer to home, the chief said he is working to build on relationships between Special Operations Forces and big Army that were developed in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly on foreign advisory and weapons of mass destruction missions. The Army and SOF recently held exercises at Fort Polk, La., for the first time "in a very long time," Odierno said, "and we have these planned throughout the year to work issues such as this. In the future I would foresee us doing a rotation that deals with WMD specifically and how we might deal with that and what the different scenarios might be."

The exercise highlights an issue identified at the Unified Quest war game in early June at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. One participant, an Army colonel, complained that details of how SOF and general purpose forces should collaborate isn't being integrated quickly enough into Army doctrine. The youngest officers coming out of school don't have the joint experience from Iraq and Afghanistan that combat veterans possess, he said.

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