The Army’s top officer, now a seasoned veteran of late-night TV talk shows, appeared on “Conan” last night and encouraged the nation’s employers to hire soldiers leaving the service.
“I believe they have so much to contribute,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, in the guest chair next to host Conan O’Brien. There are “no better employees than those who served the country,” he said to applause from the audience.
Odierno talked up the Army’s Soldier for Life program, which supports the transition of soldiers into civilian life, saying “there is still a lot of work to do” as soldiers and the Army downshift from more than a decade of war.
Conan asked Odierno how he feels about the recent events in Iraq, where Al-Qaida has torn into cities where U.S. troops fought and died.
The situation there is “frustrating and disappointing,” said Odierno who spent five years in Iraq and commanded forces there. “There are limits to what you can do with political power … but we hope it can come back.”
American soldiers can be proud of what they did there, and the U.S. military did the job it was sent to do, he said.
Conan paid tribute to the most famous soldier of the week, Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg, who was applauded long and loud at the State of the Union in D.C. on Tuesday night, becoming a public face for wounded warriors.
Odierno told Conan that wounded soldiers like Remsburg often say one thing: They want to continue to serve, they want to go back to their brothers and sisters in arms. That spirit “has kept me in for 37 years.”
“For me, it is an honor to serve beside them,” Odierno said. “Men like him make me love what I do.”
Conan and Odierno had light moments: Conan asked the general how hard it is to make fitness standards in the military.
“I try to stay fit,” said the 50-ish Conan, acknowledging it might be “tough for someone my age” to pass a PT test.
“What would I have to do?”
Odierno described the Army’s age-based standards, and gave an example: two minutes of pushups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a 2-mile run in about 14 minutes.
“And then I wake up in a hospital,” Conan replied.