By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 7, 2013 – The world is becoming more uncertain and the Army is adjusting, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray T. Odierno told the Defense Writers Group here today.
Odierno said his service is rebalancing toward the Pacific, even as it faces fiscal constraints.
He noted that seven of the largest armies in the world are in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. Army has 60,000 soldiers in the region and soon will have a four-star commander at Fort Shafter, Hawaii, when Lt. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks is promoted and takes command of U.S. Army Pacific on July 2.
The Army will engage with China and other nations in the Asia-Pacific region, Odierno said. Building partnerships in the region, he said, will foster understanding.
Meanwhile, new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s bellicose rhetoric this year has rattled the region. The North Korean leader has threatened nuclear war, an invasion of South Korea, and artillery fire on Seoul.
“When the rhetoric gets that strong, you have to take it seriously,” Odierno said. “None of us … know exactly what this young leader wants to do or trying to gain.”
Odierno said the United States needs to ensure that plans are in place to deter conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
“Deterrence -- that we can react and support South Korea -- is very important in ensuring we don’t have conflict in the future,” he said.
The chief of staff said he’s comfortable with how the U.S. Army is positioned in South Korea. He said t Army may add some troops on the periphery, and also is looking at rotating units in and out of the country.
“This will enable us to stay modernized and at a high level of training,” he said.
Odierno recently returned from a trip to visit U.S. Africa Command.
“The United States has concerns about North Africa and Central Africa about terror groups spreading into ungoverned areas,” he said. “Africom is trying to be proactive in preventing safe havens from being established.”
Africom’s missions range from conducting joint exercises and joint training to rotating forces to build partner capacity, Odierno said.
“I see that as the future -- to an extent -- for all the combatant commands,” he said. “They have been aggressive in using the forces that they have.”
Odierno also visited U.S. Army Europe. A second brigade is coming out of Europe and that is going well, he said. The 5th Corps headquarters has returned from Afghanistan and will stand down by the summer.
“I think we are getting to the right footprint in Europe for the future,” he said.
Some NATO allies worry that the U.S. military will not stay connected with them, Odierno said. All U.S. leaders are working hard “to reinforce the fact that we are not walking away from NATO,” he said.
Odierno said the U.S. Army will provide a rotational brigade as part of the NATO Response Force.
“We will rotate forces over there to train with them and hold joint exercises,” he said.
Overall, the Army needs to be prepared to operate in many different scenarios, Odierno said.
“The Army needs to be prepared to serve, if called on, in Syria, Iraq, Iran, or in a failed Pakistan,” he said. “There’s a variety of threats out there that could cause us to respond based on the President’s decision. We have to be capable of doing that.”