Thursday, December 22, 2011

Odierno Visits Soldiers in Afghanistan

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie L. Carl
Army News Service

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan  – Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno today visited with soldiers deployed to Afghanistan to share a holiday message and convey his gratitude to troops deployed overseas during the holiday season.

Odierno began his visit here with a tour of Mustang Ramp, which is the temporary home to the 101st Airborne Division’s 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, the rotary-wing aviation asset for Regional Command South.

Odierno told soldiers from the 159th CAB about the role aviation has played in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It's because your experience, your expertise, what you bring to the table in ensuring that we have the capability to support everyone in the area of operations, no matter what it might be,” Odierno said. “It's your professionalism and attention to detail that's allowed us to do that.”

In addition to touring the aviation brigade's facilities, Odierno ate lunch with a few of the soldiers and fielded questions. The questions covered everything from international affairs to retirement benefits.

"There will be some changes," Odierno said on the topic of retirement. "We don't know what they will be yet; there's a lot of work to be done."

He reassured the soldiers, however, that both the commander in chief and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are intent on grandfathering current service members into the changes whenever they occur.

Odierno also presented awards to nearly 100 soldiers, and he administered the oath of enlistment to several soldiers from various units who were reenlisting, an event near and dear to his heart.

"I'm very proud that we have good men and women who are willing to stand up and raise their right hand and say, 'I want to be part of something that is bigger than myself -- I want to contribute, and I want to make a difference,'" the general said.

One of the soldiers Odierno reenlisted was Spc. David Ponce, a human resources specialist with the 159th CAB who reenlisted for four years and an assignment at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga.

"Being in the Army pushes you to do more," Ponce said. "It pushes you to do your best and then some. It was a huge honor tohave General Odierno reenlist me. Not many people can say they were reenlisted by the Chief of Staff of the Army."

Odierno said the honor was all his.

"No matter how many times you've been deployed, whether this is your first deployment or your last deployment,” he said, “you have made a huge difference and contributed to stability, whether it be in Iraq or Afghanistan, and you've given them a chance for a future.”

Odierno closed his remarks to the soldiers with a reminder to stay safe and have a happy holiday season. He also reminded them of the importance to look out for one another, particularly in those units like the 159th CAB that are preparing to redeploy.

"Remember that as you get ready to deploy home to your family, you've got to continue to take care of each other," he said. "Be there for one another.

"The bonds you've formed on this deployment and other deployments you've had you'll remember for the rest of your life -- I guarantee it," Odierno added. "Part of that is being part of a team, part of a unit, and that you were able to achieve something together that very few people get a chance to achieve."

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