Odierno visits Fort Drum, tells troops to prepare for future uncertainties

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno answers a question from a Soldier during a town hall meeting on Fort Drum, N.Y., June 23, 2015.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno met with Fort Drum troops and Families during his visit to New York's North Country, June 23.

His visit, during the middle of 10th Mountain Division's Mountainfest, gave him an opportunity to meet with Gold Star Families as Fort Drum honored those lost during last year's deployment to Afghanistan, at the Annual Remembrance Ceremony at Memorial Park across from the post headquarters. 

"It's important for us to remember all those who sacrificed so much, and all of those, who did it because they had love of country, love of their units and love of their fellow Soldiers and some had to give the ultimate sacrifice," he said. "We understand … the potential risks associated with everything we do, but because of that, it's absolutely essential that we never forget those who have given their lives for this great nation."

Later, Odierno met with a room full of junior Soldiers during a town hall to brief current operations and the Army's future and to allow them to ask him questions ranging from pay and benefits to ongoing global threats. 

"As I look out there today, there are several things that are happening around the world," he said during his opening remarks. "And this is, I'll tell you, the most uncertain I've seen it in terms of what we think is happening - what we think the threats are around the world."

Odierno spoke about specific uncertainties around the globe and the challenges that the U.S. military might have to face, and the importance of training here at home for decisive-action readiness in high-end, combat operations.

"We need to be prepared, if necessary, to respond, because we don't know when that will happen," he said. "It's important for us to ensure that we are prepared and ready, so we have to build readiness."

Along with that, Odierno spoke about preparing for the future within the budget and balancing everything they must do while meeting their responsibilities, and he told the troops that there are three things that he wakes up to every morning. 

He said he wants to make sure that he doesn't send anyone into harm's way untrained, that the Army can maintain a force that is capable, has the right capacity and is ready during the downsizing, and what the Army may look like in the future.

All in all, he said he believes the Army is in "good shape."

"Yes, we have challenges, but I think we'll be able to meet those challenges and we are the most-respected army in the world … hands down - not even close, and it's up to you to help us to sustain that," said Odierno, regarding looking at the Army's future leaders in the audience. "That's what I ask you to do: sustain the fact that everybody knows today and will know in the future that this is the best and, more importantly, most-respected army in the world."

Before taking questions, he closed by challenging Soldiers to remain dedicated and professional for the future.

"We need Soldiers, noncommissioned officers, and officers, who are dedicated and understand the competence, commitment and character that we need in order to do these missions," he said. 

Odierno took time to answer several questions from all ranks in attendance. Young Soldiers in the audience, such as Spc. Billie Corley, of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 10th Mountain Division (LI), asked when would junior-enlisted Soldiers, such as herself, be able to have a more active role in official training opportunities such as with the Army's sexual harassment/assault response and prevention program, or SHARP. 

Odierno told her that although the Army has done a top-down solution, he believes the Army needs to start having a bottom-up movement. 

"I want Soldiers to take responsibility and help us solve this problem," he said. "I think SHARP is about caring for each other. When we wear this uniform, you should always be there for each other."

Odierno concluded his visit by administering the oath of enlistment for 10 Fort Drum Soldiers, who reenlisted and thanked them for their commitment to the Army. 

The 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum Retention Office reenlisted Soldiers representing every Fort Drum command: Sgt. Lukas Kampenhout of 1st Brigade Combat Team; Sgt. Rose Beil of 2nd Brigade Combat Team; Spc. Bilal Boyce of 91st Military Police Battalion; Sgt. Ashley Espinoza of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade; Spc. Clarice Diggs of the 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade; Staff Sgt. Jason Hughes of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion; Spc. Rebekah Villarreal of the 63rd Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal); Spc. Jeremy Lofing of the Division Artillery; Staff Sgt. Daniel Shea of Fort Drum U.S. Army Medical Activity; and Staff Sgt. Amber McClenny of the 3rd Battalion, 85th Mountain Infantry Battalion (Warrior Transition).