Say hello to General O?

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In this 2008 photo, Gen. Ray Odierno, then the commanding general for Multi-National Forces-Iraq, walks through the streets of Samarra. (U.S. Army photo)

With Gen. Martin Dempsey a virtual lock for the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the front-runner for his old (new) job is Gen. Raymond Odierno. Around the office, Odierno has a rep as a down-to-earth Jersey guy despite his ascent through every key job there was in Iraq.

He’s the guy who shaved Stephen Colbert’s head, and the one who said Saddam Hussein was, “caught like a rat.”

Odierno’s from a military family; his father and father-in-law were both World War II vets, and his eldest son, Anthony Odierno, is an advocate for wounded warriors. The younger Odierno, who serves on the Wounded Warrior Project’s board, earned a Purple Heart in Baghdad in 2004 when an RPG hit his humvee, killing his driver and taking off his left arm.

Odierno was in some ways the face of the surge, and then the transition to a population-protection role, but in the early part of the Iraq war, Odierno’s forces used “strong arm tactics,” including mass arrests and cordoning off of villages, which alienated the Sunnis and “fanned the insurgency.” So there may some question about whether he is in his heart a counter-insurgency guy now or whether he’ll wind up pulling down the tents at the National Training Center and steering the Army back to its old school force-on-force roots.

He came up in the artillery guy and today he’s the commander of United States Joint Forces Command, which is folding due to budget cuts. In recent comments, he said he may have to, “do less with less,” adding, “We must avoid the trap of doing more with less, which is a recipe for creating a hollow force.”

Odierno said the military should not be expected to do nation building.

“What we have to do is create the environment so that other agencies that should be doing nation building can do it,” he said.

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