Army Chief on Marine Corps Gripes: 'It's a Washington Thing'

'It's a Washington thing,' says Gen. Ray Odierno of reports Marines feel crowded out in Pacific.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 18, 2013.
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Soldiers' latest attempts to wade into the increasingly churning waters of the Pacific is no way an unwelcome surprise to their traditionally waterborne brothers in the Marine Corps, the Army's top officer said Tuesday.

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President Barack Obama's cherished rebalance to the Pacific is recognized as largely a naval and Air Force affair, aimed partially at providing some relief following two protracted Middle East ground wars thrust on an overworked military in the last decade. The Army, now redefining itself for the 21st Century, is preparing its forces to get in on the game that some say duplicates the established realm of the Marine Corps, much to the annoyance of the smaller service.

"There is no conflict. This is a Washington thing," said Army Gen. Ray Odierno bluntly, while speaking at the National Press Club in D.C. Tuesday afternoon. "This is not a competition between the Marine Corps and the Army."

"We've been doing it in Iraq and Afghanistan for 12 years," the Army chief of staff added, referencing the shared responsibilities of the Army and Marine Corps to kick in doors, apply zip ties to insurgents wrists and call in air strikes in those two countries. As both wars progressed, the Marines largely took over direct fighting in Iraq while the Army focused more exclusively on Afghanistan.

Now the Army is moving toward what it calls "Regionally Aligned Forces," adopting a similar model to the U.S. Army Special Forces of preparing for a specific region on the world and training to operate there.

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The source of the potential strife stems from a new Army strategy dubbed "Pacific Pathways" by Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of all Army forces in the Pacific. He wants his troops to be able to respond more swiftly to small skirmishes, acts of aggression or natural disasters, according to a feature piece by The Washington Post. As seen during the recent typhoon disaster in the Philippines, this has usually been the Marines' job.

"They're trying to create a second Marine Corps in the Pacific," a Marine general told the Post on the condition of anonymity. "To save their budget, they want to build a force the nation doesn't need."

But Odierno says this is about giving forces to the military's combatant commanders that can provide security throughout the world.

"This is not about Army versus Marine Corps," said Odierno. "We have distinct assets, they have distinct assets."

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