Farewell Tribute to General Raymond T. Odierno

By COL (Ret) Carmine Cicalese

November 19, 2021

Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_T._Odierno#/media/File:Odierno_Raymond_CSA_ASU.jpg

General Raymond Odierno, the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army, passed away from cancer last month. He was 67 years old. His warfighting and generalship are legendary: the division commander who caught Saddam Hussein, the corps commander who led the Iraq Surge, the force commander who finished the Surge and dramatically reduced Coalition casualties. Many may not know, though, he served on the board of a Fortune 500 company as a cyber advisor after he retired. More importantly, he was a tremendous supporter of the Army’s cyber forces and is most responsible for the total organize, train, and equip enterprise.

Recognizing the need to operationalize cyberspace, General Odierno assigned operational leaders to command Army Cyber.  Lieutenant General (LTG) Rhett Hernandez served as the initial commander and LTG Ed Cardon succeeded him. These two combat proven leaders set the tone for the command as they recognized the need to conduct threat-based intelligence driven cyberspace operations over install, operate, and maintain red-amber-green network status perspective. The commanders also provided General Odierno blueprints to develop the Army’s organize, train, and equip enterprise. In turn, the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) worked closely with the Secretary of the Army to effect change and to go fast.

For instance, the Army initially lagged in identifying cyber talent to fill the Cyber Mission Force (CMF) requirements. As the largest service, it is not unusual to be the slowest moving. Once moving, though, the Army promptly met its mission. General Odierno approved the talent search process advocating for the inclusion of combat operators, targeteers, communicators, and intelligence personnel.  He led the charge to create the cyber branch. Ultimately, Army Cyber was the first service to achieve full operational capability of its CMF.

General Odierno didn’t stop with the CMF as he drove the idea that the Army also needed tactical cyber forces, asking a commander, “it is great all you are doing for the combatant commands and CYBERCOM – what are you doing for the Army?” This led to the expansion of the branch to include electronic warfare personnel and tactical cyber electro-magnetic activities. These personnel now fill the new 915th Cyber Warfare Battalion and Intelligence, Information, Cyber and Electronic Warfare, and Space units to support Army tactical combat formations.

As an accomplished joint warrior, the CSA fully supported joint cyber. When the US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) commander, General Alexander, requested the Services take the lead on key projects, General Odierno volunteered the Army to be the Cyber Training Range Executive Agent. “The Army will be a leader in cyber training,” he averred. That guidance would lead the Army to also be the Acquisition Agent for the Persistent Cyber Training Environment.

He relentlessly advocated for expanding the greater Army’s understanding of cyberspace operations. He mandated the education of GOs on cyber. One of my first tasks as the staff lead within G-3/5/7 was to assist force modernization in building the seventy personnel authorizations for the Army Cyber Institute the CSA directed be stationed at the United States Military Academy. Seventy might not sound like much unless you are an Infantry company commander losing more than half of your combat power or an Armor battalion commander losing a third of your combat power.

I had the opportunity to witness General Odierno’s intense interest in the Army cyber enterprise.  He instituted quarterly Cyber-Saturdays where the entire Army Staff and every commander with a stake in the cyber enterprise convened to solve the Army’s cyber challenges. Ordinarily, I prefer to not work on Saturday, but these sessions were invaluable and created the irreversible momentum necessary to transform the force.

The Army had decided to amass much of its cyber assets at Fort Gordon where Army Cyber Command would collocate with National Security Agency (NSA) - Georgia and transform the Army Signal Center of Excellence into the Cyber Center of Excellence. The Augusta Chronicle published a new article with a slightly inaccurate by-line that read, “All military cyber to move to Fort Gordon”. This caused some consternation amongst the congressional representative to Ft Meade and the senior senator of Maryland who led a vital defense committee. After three rounds of congressional staff engagements and many more internal Army staff meetings, General Odierno personally called the senator to inform them of the Army’s decision while the Secretary was on leave.

In 2015, Major General (MG) Fogarty hosted me at Fort Gordon. We ran through the rain from one aging facility to another revieing the antiquated infrastructure that had barely changed since I completed officer basic course over twenty-five years earlier. At the end, MG Fogarty handed me some slides with pictures of a proposed new cyber campus. I commented it would be difficult as Congress had a pause on new military construction. The Army could only renovate existing facilities.

Within a month, MG Fogarty’s plan was inside the Pentagon. The CSA directed the Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management to convene a board and reprioritize the Army’s short-term renovation and long term construction to accommodate the future Cyber Center of Excellence as the CSA’s number one priority. Today, demolition and construction has already started at Ft Gordon.

Over the past decade, many Army cyber leaders have set the pace for Army Cyber Command: Hernandez, Cardon, Nakasone, Fogarty. Many cyber operators like Frost, Buckner, and Mollenkopf led with innovative tactics and techniques. The thought leaders like Goss, Fletcher, and Nelson were tenacious. The staff work of O’Connor,  VanDriel, Parr, Bidjou, Wilkes and many more is remarkable. All of them and many more have made the Army Cyber enterprise successful. None of them would have been as successful without the uncompromising and unmitigated support of General Odierno. Everything that is Army Cyber through 2025 is due to the commitment of the 38th CSA.

May the Lord bless and keep the soul of General Raymond Thomas Odierno - the Godfather of Army Cyber.

About the Author

COL (Ret) Carmine Cicalese served with the 38th CSA as the G-3/5/7 Division Chief for Cyberspace and Information Operations the 38th CSA from August 2012 until the CSA retired in 2015. Carm retired in 2016 with 29 years of service. He served as MCPA Chief of Staff for two years and founded CYBER CIC, LLC an information security consulting company.