As Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the U.S. surge policy in Iraq, leaves to take over U.S. Central Command later this fall a swath of territory from Kazakhstan to Kenya, including Iraq and Afghanistan he's passing the baton to his former top deputy in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno. The New Jersey-born and bred Odierno, an imposing (6-ft. 5-in.) leader whom the troops call "General O", spent 15 months as Petraeus's number two during the implementation of the surge. His new job will include advising the next President on if and when to pull out U.S. troops from Iraq. At a press conference earlier this year, he touted a "conditions-based" approach to withdrawal. When asked how he felt about a withdrawl timetable, he said, "we'll have to make an assessment to decide whether that's the right thing to do."
During his earlier tours in Iraq, Odierno was known for his aggressive tactics rooting out insurgents. While critics at the time accused him of alienating Iraqi civilians in the process, he won praise under Petraeus for taking a more nuanced tack, particularly in dealing with Sunni tribal leaders. In 2003, Odierno was commander of the 4th Infantry Division, which found and captured Saddam Hussein in his underground bunker.
Odierno graduated from West Point and has two masters degrees: from North Carolina State University where he studied nuclear effects engineering and the Naval War College where he studied national security and strategy. He was in Iraq during served in Desert Storm and is a former assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His son, Tony, also served in Iraq and lost an arm when he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
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