WASHINGTON — Retired Gen. Raymond Odierno, the former Army chief of staff, died Oct. 8 of cancer, according to a family statement released through an Army spokesman. He was 67.
The service’s professional association first announced the news Saturday.
Odierno, a 1976 graduate of West Point, became the Army’s 38th chief of staff in September 2011.
“He’s a consummate leader, the very symbol of the United States Army,” former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said at Odierno’s retirement ceremony in 2015. “Big, strong, capable, always willing.”
Odierno commanded at every level, from platoon to theater, serving in Germany, Albania, Kuwait, Iraq and the United States. He led the 4th Infantry Division and III Corps in Iraq, served more than 50 months in country, was key in executing the surge of forces in 2007 and served as the top U.S. commander there.
He oversaw the withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 and publicly advocated against sequestration — across-the-board budget cuts imposed by Congress that began in 2013.
“I began my career in a hollow Army. I am determined not to end my career in a hollow Army,” Odierno said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in February 2013. “We owe that to the young men and women who are willing to raise their right hand and defend this country.”
During a House Armed Services Committee hearing in 2013, then-California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter accused the general of ignoring soldiers’ requests for a specific intelligence analysis capability, instead of an Army-developed system some found harder to use.
Odierno pushed back. “I’m tired of somebody telling me I don’t care about our soldiers and we don’t respond,” he said, arguing, that Hunter was twisting the facts and that the Army’s system resulted in significant leaps in intelligence analysis capability.
The general, who was about 6 feet 5 inches tall, also had a fun-loving side, appearing on television live from Iraq with Steven Colbert in 2009 and chuckling when Colbert said he felt like he was interviewing Shrek. He went on to have a serious conversation about ensuring long-term stability in the country.
Many who served with him took to social media Saturday to share memories.
Retired Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, who served as the commander of the U.S. Army War College, said Odierno “stood by me during a period of time (in a combat zone) when I felt very much alone in the institution I loved.
“Was witness to character and moral courage in action; he was a steward of the profession. It can be said, ‘Well done! Be thou at peace’.” he wrote on Twitter.
Odierno is survived by his wife, Linda, as well as their three children, including retired Capt. Tony Odierno, a combat veteran, and their families.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.