March 17, 2014 -- CSA's remarks at Gen. Cone's retirement
April 4, 2014
Good afternoon, everyone. Happy St. Patrick's Day! When I looked out the window this morning I wasn't sure if it was Christmas or St. Patrick's Day. I want to thank everyone for coming. I want to put out a special thanks to The Old Guard, Pershing's Own, the Fife & Drum Crops, and all of the protocol people that made this happen today under extraordinary circumstances. I want to thank you very much for that effort.
I think it says a lot about what's important to us; it's important to honor those that served, it's important to maintain traditions, and they celebrate that every single day in their jobs. I want to thank you again for everything that you've done to make this happen today.
This is a great day. It's a celebration to honor and bid farewell to a great American who ends his active duty Army career after 35 years of unparalleled service to this great Nation. The strength, courage, and fortitude of leaders like Bob Cone are rare. Bob will leave here today with a Distinguished Service Medal and a Certificate of Retirement -- tokens of admiration and gratitude, but his true legacy and reward will be thousands of Soldiers and Civilians whose lives he has touched over the span of his career.
A leader who lived our Army values, who always led from the front, and who dedicated himself to the Profession of Arms, Bob Cone is the epitome of an Army Professional. The presence of so many distinguished guests here offers a powerful statement about the stature and impact of the Soldier we are honoring today. And many of you who fought the weather to stay and be here: Secretary McHugh; General and Mrs. Marty Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General (ret) Gordon Sullivan, the 32nd Chief of Staff of the Army; General Frank Grass, the commander of the National Guard Bureau; Under Secretary Westphal; General and Mrs. Campbell, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army; the Honorable Brad Carson, General Counsel and incoming Under Secretary of the Army; Assistant Secretary Lamont, former Assistant Secretary of the Army for M&RA -- sir, thank you for being here and getting out here today; General (ret) and Mrs. William Wallace -- thank you for being here, sir, and making this a special day; and all other guests that are here -- Army Staff, retired general officers, Sergeants Major, Command Sergeants Major, everyone that came out of their way to be here today -- thank you very much.
Today, we honor one of the brightest innovators and leaders in our Army's history. But I want to talk about Bob Cone as the Soldier and go over just a few things he has done for our Army. Last week -- Friday, in fact, Bob relinquished command of Army Training and Doctrine Command. Bob's commanded at all levels from company to Army Command. The span of his military assignments highlight the impact that one person can have on our Army.
I'd also like to acknowledge several family members of Bob and Jill's family that are here today. First, Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Cone, Bob's brother; Ms. Kim Egan and family, Bob's sister; several of Bob's cousins; Jill's two sisters, Kim and Ellen and their families. I want to welcome all of you. It is incredibly great that you are all here today.
There's a recurring theme in Bob's career, and that's transition and transformation. Throughout his service, he has pioneered organizational change at almost every level, and he's consistently helped change our Army into the one our Nation needed at that time. And I'm told, even before he graduated from West Point, Bob was known as a great classmate and natural leader. I'm told his room was essentially the social epicenter for several cadet companies. Bob even led a group of classmates to walk into the Highland Falls Chevy dealer and cut ridiculous deals on 1978 Corvettes. The result of which was a sort of Corvette club that did route clearance on the Palisades Parkway from West Point to north Jersey and back on several occasions. I didn't ask how many tickets were issued during that time, but I'll let that go.
After his commissioning from West Point in 1979, Bob reported to Fort Hood to be a Platoon Leader in the 2nd Armored Division. He joined an Army in transition after Vietnam, and he excelled immediately. He performed so well, in fact, that he stayed at Fort Hood to be an Aide-de-Camp to Brigadier General Doc Bahnsen and to command an armored company in the same division. The Army recognized Bob's ability to teach, so after attending the Infantry Advanced course and earning a Masters at the University of Texas, Bob moved back to West Point to be an Assistant Professor in the Behavioral Science and Leadership department.
In 1991, Bob joined the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany as an S-3, where he deployed for Operation Desert Storm. Three years later, Bob was selected to command 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment -- the Tiger Squadron. Much has been written about Bob's performance and the brilliance of his leadership in transitioning this squadron. Its previous commander, along with the regimental commander, had been relieved for what we now define as toxic leadership. Bob took a unit that was held together at the fringes and transformed it into one of mentorship and leader development. Looking back now, it's clear Bob had the qualities our Army needed in its senior leaders.
A combat-tested leader and adept scholar, Bob graduated from the Naval War College in 1998 and began excelling in senior assignments. He returned to Fort Hood to serve as the G-3 of the 4th Infantry Division, and later took command of 2nd brigade of the 4th Infantry Division -- which at the time was the Army's first fully digitized brigade.
As a senior colonel and one-star, Bob became the director of the Joint Advanced Warfighting Program under the Institute for Defense Analysis, as well as the director of the Joint Center for Lessons Learned under Joint Forces Command. In those roles, Bob helped transform our military by contributing to the establishment of the first ever Joint Lessons Learned Collection Team to capture lessons from ongoing combat operations. He led a 60-person team, geographically separated at six different locations to collect quick-win observations and systemic improvements for presentation to the Secretary of Defense. And the one weekend, he was called down to brief the president in Texas.
Bob continued his effort to transition the way we fight as the commanding general of the National Training Center -- our premier training center. He transformed NTC into a readiness factory that incorporated everything that units could not accomplish with home-station training. In the same capacity, he served as the director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, where he continued to capture best practices from units forward-deployed and incorporate them back into unit training scenarios. I know that this work saved immeasurable lives in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
As a major general, Bob combined his incredible talents and diverse experience to make huge impacts as the commander of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. In this role, he was instrumental in the manning, equipping, and training of the Afghan National Security Forces during a critical time in the war. And they continue to excel today.
Bob's last two assignments are particularly noteworthy for their complexity and critical importance to the Joint Force, the U.S. Army, and military operations at home and abroad. It was only fitting given Bob's experience and his demonstrated performance as a leader and general officer that he was selected to command III Corps at Fort Hood. In 2009, Bob continued to lead Fort Hood through incredible growth. But you never know what you may face as a leader. And we had the right leader at the right place, because his calm and steady demeanor was critical following the tragic shootings at Fort Hood, and he led the community to properly care for our fallen and wounded, as well as their families. But that was not enough, because in March of 2010, III Corps headquarters deployed and Bob became the Deputy Commanding General for Operations in U.S. Forces-Iraq. Bob led from the front, enhancing the partnership framework that would characterize U.S. Forces' future operations. His leadership was essential to attacking the full spectrum of Al Qaeda in Iraq's capabilities. He was also responsible for overseeing the strategic transition to Operation New Dawn, where U.S. forces assumed a supporting role for the Iraqi Security Forces. His contributions in III Corps were critical to our Soldiers, to our Families, and to the Nation.
For all of Bob's accomplishments, and understanding the incredible leadership he possesses, Bob was selected to command Training & Doctrine Command in 2011. When you're coming out of two wars, there's never a more important time for TRADOC, and Bob's leadership was paramount to their accomplishments. Their work is critical in sustaining current readiness through institutional training and innovation, while simultaneously moving the Army into the future through integrated organizational and equipment concepts and doctrine. Bob orchestrated our strategy for Army leader development across three pillars: lifelong training, education and broadening experiences. This strategy will guide the development of competent and committed leaders of character for the next decade.
Bob led an extraordinary effort to completely and extensively reform our doctrine for the first time in over 20 years. In doing so, TRADOC and the Combined Arms Center not only captured the key lessons learned from over a decade of war and persistent conflict, but ensured our doctrine was would be accessible to our Soldiers and leaders no matter where they served. Bob also led a comprehensive effort to ensure we select the best Soldiers for each military occupational specialty, regardless of gender. His work has been lauded by Congress and many outside agencies for its comprehensive approach to remove barriers and give every Soldier the opportunity to serve in any position where he or she is capable of performing to the standard.
Bob is critical as we begin to look ahead as we think about the concept of Strategic Landpower for the future. He's established a framework to provide a pathway for a more globally responsive force -- a leaner, more lethal and agile force, uniquely enabled and organized to conduct expeditionary maneuver wherever we might need it in the future.
Through a career of service, Bob Cone has been the epitome of what we hope and expect of our senior leaders: a leader who is competent -- technically and tactically proficient, able to do whatever job is given to him, to learn about it, and to do it to his best ability; a leader who is committed -- committed to Soldiers, committed to the mission, committed to our Army, and committed to our Nation. But most importantly, Bob Cone is a leader of great character -- one that understands the importance of moral and ethical values; one that understands the importance of building trust in an organization that will extend from the private to the 4-star general; one who understands the importance of team -- always subordinating himself to the greater good. He represents all that we need our leaders to be.
Bob is and always will be a Soldier first. Combat tested with an incredibly diverse background, he is also a scholar and a teacher. Bob, you have given of yourself for over 35 years, all the while instilling in those you have led a selfless attitude and an enduring dedication to our Profession. It is my honor today to thank you on behalf of our Army and a grateful Nation for your extraordinary service.
I also want to take a moment to recognize the contributions of Jill. She has made incredible contributions not only to the Army, but to the Joint Force, as well as our coalition partners and their Families. During her 28 years beside Bob, Jill has epitomized selfless service by taking care of Soldiers. She was instrumental in assisting the families and Soldiers' healing during the incidents surrounding the Fort Hood shooting in September of 2009.
She has led FRG's and taken care of families and leaders throughout Bob's career -- from Tiger Squadron, to the Warhorse Brigade, to 36 rotations at the NTC, and through the incredible III Corps rotation in Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. She did that while managing an important career as a comptroller and ensuring Soldiers and units are properly resourced, as well as providing the love, support and engaging touch that enabled her Soldier to create the most impressive collections of positive command climates anyone has seen in 35 years. Jill, we owe you an incredible debt of gratitude. Thank you for everything you've done for our Army and our country. [Applause]
Bob and Jill's impact will have lasting effects that will always bear his imprint. But it is the thousands of men and women, military and civilian, who have been influenced by Bob Cone, who will carry the torch into the future that is your legacy. You have shown pride in your units, you have challenged your subordinates, you have been loyal to your leaders, you have been a friend to your colleagues, and you have been a selfless servant to those who have been placed in your charge. You have made every unit you have ever been assigned to better. Your legacy is clear in what you have done for the Army.
Bob, you leave the active ranks knowing that your faithful stewardship has passed into the capable and spirited hands of those who you have influenced through your efforts, your example, your mentorship and your service to our Army. Rest assured they will not fail you, nor will they fail our Nation. Today, I personally lose a friend, a confidant, and a trusted advisor. But more importantly the Army loses a Soldier leader -- one who was always dedicated to his Soldiers, his unit, his Army and the Nation. Bob and Jill -- on behalf of a grateful Army, thank you for your many years of service, and for what you have done and will continue to do in retirement. I wish you both the very best in this next chapter of your lives as you enjoy your retirement.
The Strength of our Nation is our Army, the Strength of the Army is our Soldiers, the Strength of our Soldiers is our Families, and that's what makes us Army Strong. Thank you very much and may God bless America.