You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Straight talk from Odierno on uniforms, women in combat arms and PT tests

Dec. 27, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Odierno interview MWM 20131219
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno says a bill that cuts into the retirement of active-duty soldiers caught him by surprise. (Mike Morones/Staff)
  • Filed Under


Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno outlined his five priorities for the Army:
1. To develop adaptive leaders for a complex world and future.
2. Develop an Army that is globally responsive and regionally engaged.
3. Rebuilding our readiness, and making sure that we have still have a modern Army that’s capable of performing across a variety of areas.
4. Reinforcing the importance of our profession — the competence, commitment and character that we expect of all of our soldiers.
5. Sustaining a premier all-volunteer Army, that we recognize the sacrifice of our young men and women. We provide them the opportunities to improve themselves, and improve the Army. We also recognize that by providing appropriate benefits and pay for our soldiers.

The Army is closing in on picking the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, or MultiCam, to replace the Universal Camouflage Pattern, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Army Times.

The Army is closing in on picking the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, or MultiCam, to replace the Universal Camouflage Pattern, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Army Times.

  • Please enable JavaScript for your browser in order to use
Want to read more?
Current Subscribers
Access to Marine Corps Times Prime is free for current Marine Corps Times subscribers.
Log in
Haven't registered online?
Activate Account
New Subscribers
Start your subscription to Marine Corps Times Prime for as little as 59¢ a week!

The Army is closing in on picking the Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern, or MultiCam, to replace the Universal Camouflage Pattern, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Army Times. The 38th chief of staff of the Army sat down with Army Times on Dec. 18.

The long-awaited policy on appearance standards and the plans for replacing UCP were among the topics discussed.

Based upon Odierno’s re-marks, it appears that the Army will soon transition from UCP to MultiCam, the pattern adop-ted for use in Afghanistan in 2010.

For the past three years, the Army has been studying a range of patterns to replace UCP, widely believed to be ineffective in a combat situation.

Patterns from four companies were selected for in-depth scientific testing to choose a pattern for the post-Afghanistan Army. But that plan hit a snag when Congress ordered the military to adopt a single camouflage pattern across the services. The order essentially blocked the Army from picking a pattern that was not already in use. That turned the Army’s sights to OCP.

“Congress has ordered that we can’t develop any new systems,” Odierno said. “Well, we have two, right now: the one that we’re wearing every day, and then the one that we use in Afghanistan. So, what’s the next step in how we transition? When do we start? Now, we want it to be as cost-neutral as possible.”

Q. You expect the transition to the Afghanistan uniform?

A. I think the testing tells us that’s the best uniform, but we have not finalized that decision yet. You know that I usually don’t avoid questions, but it’s contractual, so I’ve got to be careful of what I say.

Q. A bill has just passed that, for the first time ever, cuts into the retirement of active-duty soldiers.

A. That caught us all by surprise. We were not consulted. We did not know that they were going to do that. It is not part of any recommendation that we’ve ever made or talked about or discussed. In fact, we actually looked at it, at one point, and rejected it.

But this is a bigger issue. My concern is that, all along, we’ve agreed to this commission that’s looking at retirement, and they’ve usurped that commission that they set up, and it’s concerning to us that they have made an independent decision without actually consulting the Pentagon or consulting anyone else. So, what I worry about is, they’re going to piecemeal us now. So, what’s next? We wanted a total package that we’d be able to look at and agree to. We do believe that there’s compensation reform that has to be done, but not in the way that they’ve chosen to do it here.

Q. Will you try to reverse it?

A. What I would just say to everyone is it does not go into effect until [2015]. So, we have some time to work this on the Hill, and to make sure that we’re making the sound, right decisions here. I look forward for the opportunity to work this with the whole Army next year.

What I would like to do is see a complete compensation package. Where does it fit? What is the overall impact on our soldiers and our families before I’d agree to it? We formed a commission, so let’s let the commission do their work. And then, we’ll make a recommendation based on the commission’s work. That’s what we agreed to.

I’m also a little disappointed [that] in all of the discussion that I’ve had, they also said that current servicemen should be grandfathered. That’s not the case as well here. So I think that we need to take ... the opportunity to revisit this with Congress.

Q. In the same package is kind of a break on sequestration, rolled back somewhat. How will that affect the kinds of decision you’ve had to make?

A. It really impacts one-year readiness. It really gives us money back in ’14, that is going to enable us to buy back some of our readiness. It’s going to enable us to do more training with our brigade combat teams ... to ensure that we conduct more aviation training and buy back some of the backlog that we have in our pilots. It’s going to enable [us] to ensure that everyone gets to go to our institutional schools that allow us to fully execute for ’14 our [Noncommissioned Officer Education System], and our officer education system. So it does some really good things. It does not impact modernization, and it does not impact our end strength because it’s a one-year change.

This does not fix sequestration. It just helps us with short-term revenues in ’14, which we’re thankful for. We’re very thankful that this bill was passed.

Combating toxic leadership

Q. You’ve approved 360 evaluations for officers.

A. We already have a program in place where 360s are done for young lieutenants, captains. They will continue to get those throughout their time in service. We’re doing a pilot now on battalion and brigade commanders. We’ve run one pilot. I’m now doing a more extensive pilot that will come back to me sometime here in the spring. Then, we’ll make a decision to execute that across all battalion and brigade commanders. For general officers, we do peer and advisory ratings.

We’re going to continue to do peer and advisory ratings, and we’re now going to do 360 on general officers, as well. That will begin in the next few months.

Q. Why not do 360s for senior enlisted leadership?

A. We will get to that at some time. What I’ve asked to do first is I want to do it on battalion and brigade commanders. We are then going to figure out how we translate this to sergeants major. That will probably be another year or so. It’s good for development. So it’s really important for us. And so, we’ll start to do it for our noncommissioned officers. We have to decide whether we start at platoon sergeant and above.

Q. So do you think, in a reasonable period of time, we’ll be down to senior NCOs, E-7, E-8, E-9?

A. Yes. I would say that we will come to some decision on this in the next 12 months.

Regionally aligned soldiers

Q. We had a discussion with [Training and Doctrine Command commander] Gen. Robert Cone, who told us that there is a movement afoot to align individuals rather than align the unit.

A. We’re still in the first phase of this, the permanent in aligning of division and corps headquarters to commands. We’re going to announce here alignment for ’14 and ’15 of not only brigade combat teams but other capabilities: engineer capabilities, intelligence capabilities, command-and-control capabilities, and across the entire medical capabilities because it’s going encompass all of those things, so we will align those regionally.

We’re not permanently aligning brigade and below yet. They would maybe switch regions and do one region and another. But over time, we’ll get a look at the benefits of permanently aligning brigades, or do we want to move them in some way? So we have to figure that out.

We have not yet talked about permanently aligning individuals. ... We could get to the decision where we say, OK, you’re going to be a guy who’s totally always focused on the Middle East. You’re going to be somebody who’s always focused in the Pacific. And so, you’re going to always be assigned to those kinds of units that are aligned.

Q. Like the Special Forces?

A. Yes, but we’re not quite there yet. The Special Forces, their education and training is very different from the conventional forces. They get very focused training language and other things that are important. We’ll do some of that, but we cannot do it to the extent they do it. We cannot afford to do that. That’s why we’re yet to make that decision, but it’s one we could make in the future depending on how this continues to develop. I don’t want to rush into any decisions like that yet because I want to collect data and see how it’s working.

Q. What about regionally aligned people?

A. Regionally aligned is about units. When you’re in that unit, you’re going to be regionally aligned, and you’ll be. So say that you’re doing that for three years, four years, and when you come out of that, we could give you an assignment based on your regional alignment that expands and broadens you. We could do it on your technical background. We could do it based on getting you an experience at a higher level staff. So it could be any one of those three things we decide to do. We’ll match up what we think is best for the Army and what’s best for the individual continuing to develop them. That’s the thought process.

Headquarters reductions

Q. Sometime back in the fall, there was a discussion about 25 percent headquarters cuts. What’s the plan there?

A. We’re looking at headquarters all the way down to the two-star level. So, we’re going to take a 25 percent cut in forming the Army. We’re going to take a 25 percent cut in our four-star commands. There might be some that are 28 percent and some that are 23 percent, but overall it’s going to be 25 percent.

We’re going to reduce the size of our division and corps headquarters. So we’re doing this across the board.

The more we can take out of our headquarters, the more we can invest in our operational units as we cut our end strength. We’ve gone out to each one of the commands.

For example, with division and corps headquarters, we’ve done it with TRADOC and with our headquarters here and developing concepts of how we would do that.

Q. Will there be fewer generals and fewer colonels?

A. Yes, of course there will be. There’ll be general officer slots that are reduced. There will be other positions that are reduced, civilian positions that are reduced. There’ll be a combination of all of those. We’ve been reducing the numbers of general officers. We’ve been consistently doing this over time.

Women in combat

Q. The topic that we talk about a lot is the integration of women into combat positions. Can you give us an update on where that is?

A. In the last month or so I went up to Natick, which is where we’re doing a lot of the testing. I was very impressed with the extensive testing that is going on in determining gender-neutral standards. The first point that I want to make about this is that I’m very confident. And, this is not about reducing standards. This is about setting the standards that are necessary for a specific [military occupational specialty], and we’ll talk of really, three or four: infantry, armor, artillery and engineers. And, that’s really where we have most of the closed MOS jobs now. And so, we’re looking at making sure that it’s right. [The] social engineering part of this is, what’s the best way to initially integrate women into these areas so they can be successful? How do we get leadership in place because we don’t believe you automatically put low-ranking females as we recruit them into all-male organizations? So, it’s about at what level do we retrain NCOs? What level do we retrain officers to do this?

I think that by the beginning of ’15, we’re going to start to have some real good insights into what we’re going to be able to do, and how we’re going to do this integration. I’m very confident that we’ll be able to move forward. There’s still some work that has to be done yet for us to make a final recommendation. But right now, things are going well.

Q. When do you think that we'll have women in infantry?

A. I have to make the decision. The chief of staff of the Army will make a recommendation at the end of ’15 to the secretary of defense. Again, I don’t want to presuppose any decisions, but it could be as early as the beginning of ’16.

A new PT test

Q. When will we have a new [physical training] test?

A. TRADOC is working this. They came up with one. I did not like it.

We’ll want a PT test as one that is a standard that is expected of every soldier in the Army. And then, we’re looking at what is the functional PT test that we need based on your MOS, and it’s linked a little bit to gender-neutral standards and all of that stuff. So, for example, if you’re infantry, there are certain things that we might want you to do. If you’re armor, there are certain things. [Same for] artillery. Then there are many others that will just be important to take the general PT. Why is this so important? What we learned is situps, pushups and a 2-mile run [don’t] necessarily translate into what we need people to do in war.

It doesn’t necessarily measure what we think [is] most important. We won’t disadvantage anybody. So there might be a general PT test, but then there’ll be a test that we use in order to develop our physical training programs that are focused on what we believe certain soldiers have to do within their own MOS, which could be more strenuous in some cases.

So let me give you an example. An artilleryman who has to load 95-pound shells, they need upper-body strength. So how are we measuring that properly? So we’re trying to progress them forward, for example, to do their job. Endurance for an infantryman? What’s the right kind of endurance we want to measure and that kind of thing. ■

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Marine Corps Times

This Week's Marine Corps Times

First sergeant vs. master sergeant
Choose the rank that's best for your career

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook