General Raymond T. “Ray” Odierno is a United States Army general and the 38th and current Chief of Staff of the Army. General Odierno most recently commanded United States Joint Forces Command from October 2010 until its disestablishment in August 2011. He served as Commanding General, United States Forces – Iraq and its predecessor, Multi-National Force – Iraq, from September 2008 through September 2010. Before then, he served as Commanding General, III Corps, from May 2006 to May 2008. General Odierno is the twelfth American military officer to command at the Division, Corps, and Army level during the same conflict and only the second to have this honor since the Vietnam War. He assumed his current assignment on September 7, 2011.
Before commanding III Corps, he served as Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, where he was the primary military advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 3 November 2004 to 1 May 2006.
General Odierno is the 2009 recipient of the Naval War College Distinguished Graduate Leadership Award for his strategic leadership and insight.
Odierno’s initial tours took him to United States Army Europe and U.S. Seventh Army, Germany, where he served as a Platoon Leader and Survey Officer of the 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, 56th Field Artillery Brigade. He later served as Aide-de-Camp to the Pershing Missile Brigade’s Commanding General, Major General Richard D Boyle. Following completion of the Artillery Officer Advanced Course, Odierno was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 73rd Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he commanded Service Battery and Alpha Battery. Subsequently, he served as the Battalion S3 in the 1st Battalion, 73rd Field Artillery. During Operation Desert Storm, Odierno served as the Executive Officer for the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, and then he held the same position in Division Artillery, 3rd Armored Division.
Odierno went on to command 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery, 7th Infantry Division, followed by command of the Division Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division. He later commanded the 4th Infantry Division and the III Corps. It was there that his troopers affectionately gave him the nickname “Old Odie”.
His significant staff duties include Arms Control Officer, Office of the Secretary of Defense; Chief of Staff, United States V Corps, U.S. Army Europe; Assistant Division Commander (Support), U.S. 1st Armored Division; Deputy Commanding General, Task Force Hawk, Albania; Director, Force Management, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, United States Army, Washington, D.C.; and Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C., where he was the primary military advisor to United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. On September 1, 2010, he turned over command to General Lloyd Austin.
Following the successful transition of command in Iraq, Odierno returned stateside to assume command of U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) in Norfolk, Va. When he assumed command in October 2010, Odierno transitioned to the new challenge of disestablishing the organization as part of wider DOD efficiencies initiatives. He became immersed in the Hampton Roads community by conducting press conferences, particularly with local print and broadcast media, to discuss the ways to preserve and protect jointness in the military.
Throughout 2010 and 2011, during his time at USJFCOM, Odierno continued to make time for national and international media as well as researchers and scholars interested in the details and strategy of U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq. Additionally, Odierno has been the keynote speaker at numerous public events, where he relates his leadership lessons and strategic perspective to a diverse audience of American citizens. He visited The Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics, where he spoke to students, faculty, staff and citizens about the importance of service.
On May 30, 2011, Odierno was nominated to be Army Chief of Staff. He was confirmed to take over from General Martin E. Dempsey on September 7, 2011, and sworn in as 38th Army Chief of Staff later that day.
2003–2004: 4th Infantry Division
Odierno commanded the U.S. 4th Infantry Division (4th ID) from October 2001 to June 2004, during which he deployed the division to Operation Iraqi Freedom from March 2003 to April 2004. Originally, the 4th Infantry Division was designated to enter Iraq through Turkey, though diplomatic complications prevented such a maneuver. Eventually, Odierno and the 4th Infantry Division deployed into Iraq from Kuwait, and despite the diplomatic complications, still executed the most rapid deployment of heavy armored forces in history.
The division did not deploy in time to start the invasion but joined it as a follow-on force in April 2003, attacking toward Tikrit and Mosul, and later played a major role during in the occupation. Following the invasion and conclusion of major combat operations, the division was then headquartered in Tikrit, an especially dangerous location due to a higher population of regime loyalists. In July 2003, the 4th Infantry Division was involved in the so-called Hood event. In a major accomplishment late in the deployment, Odierno’s troops captured Saddam Hussein in December 2003.
Odierno’s tenure as 4th ID commander in Iraq and his unit’s actions there have subsequently come under criticism from several sources. Some have been critical of 4th ID’s belligerent stance during their initial entry into Iraq after the ground war had ceased, arguing that the unit’s lack of a ‘hearts and minds’ approach was ineffective in quelling the insurgency.
In his unit’s defense, Odierno and others have argued that enemy activity in the 4th ID’s area of operations was higher than in any other area of the country because of the region’s high concentration of Sunni resistance groups still loyal to Saddam Hussein’s regime. His unit was headquartered in Hussein’s hometown and this environment necessitated a different approach from those of units located in the more peaceful regions in the south and the north of the country.