Odierno, former Army chief of staff, remembered as ‘loyal,’ ‘extraordinary leader’

Raymond Odierno is being remembered as a brave, loyal leader.

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.

President Joe Biden wrote that America lost a hero of great integrity and honor. In a statement released by the White House, Biden called Odierno “a giant in military circles.” Odierno was his son Beau Biden’s commander in Iraq.

“Ray and his wife Linda were partners and fierce advocates for military children and families. And we will be forever grateful for the words and the kindness that Ray shared when he spoke at the funeral of our beloved son Beau and awarded him with the Legion of Merit.”

Odierno served as commander of the US Joint Forces Command before President Barack Obama selected him to be the Army’s 38th chief of staff in 2011. Obama wrote that he relied on Odierno’s “deep knowledge, steady leadership, and strong judgement.”

“It’s why I trusted him to help come up with the plan to withdraw U.S. combat forces from Iraq, and to execute it in a way that kept our forces and the Iraqi people safe,” Obama wrote.

Army chief of staff General James C. McConville said he cherished Odierno’s counsel, writing on Twitter “We are truly saddened by the loss of this extraordinary leader.”

At 6-foot-5, Odierno was an imposing figure. He played football as a cadet at West Point and retained a lifelong interest in the sport. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth wrote on Twitter Saturday evening that Odierno embodied the values of West Point and of the Army itself.

“A leader who was larger than life, we will remember him always for his selfless service to our nation and to our soldiers in and out of uniform,” she wrote.

Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones tweeted support for Oderino’s family, writing on Twitter about how he helped advocate for troops.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin echoed Odierno’s advocacy for the health and welfare of those who serve. Austin applauded Odierno’s influence in a statement published on the Department of Defense website.

“As our 38th Chief of Staff of the Army, Ray also worked to forge what he called an “Army of the future”— a force that was agile, innovative, adaptable, and led by leaders of character and commitment.

The United States Army, indeed our nation, is stronger for his dedication, professionalism, and leadership. I know that I am a better person for having had his friendship.”

A statement from the U.S. Army noted Odierno’s 39 years of service, noting that his commitment to others is his legacy.

Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force, wrote that Odierno cared deeply about his troops and their families.

A native of Rockaway, New Jersey, Odierno graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1976 with a commission in field artillery. He served in a wide range of Army and Defense Department roles with multiple tours abroad, including in Iraq, Germany, Albania and Kuwait. As a three-star general he was assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a job that made him the main military adviser to the secretary of state.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy wrote that Odierno represented the best of the state.

When Odierno retired in 2015, he was succeeded as Army chief of staff by Gen. Mark Milley, the current Joint Chiefs chairman. In a statement Saturday, Milley said Odierno’s legacy will “live on through the generations he led.”

At a ceremony marking his retirement from the Army in 2015, then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter described him as a commander whose tenacity and operational savvy gave civilian leaders great confidence.

“His commanding presence calmed the confused, and his courage and compassion helped carry the burden of loss and sacrifice,” Carter said.

Rep. Elise Stefanik remembered working with Odierno as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. She wrote that Odierno is a true American hero.

Odierno is survived by his wife Linda and their three children. Funeral and interment information is not yet available.

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