IMCOM Change of Command / LTG Wilson Retirement Ceremony
Nov. 2, 2009

Good morning, everyone!

Well, I had a feeling it was going to be a "cavalry" kind of day. When I heard "Garry Owen" and saw the color bearer for the IMCOM colors, I knew I was right. The other tip-off was the smattering of former cavalry officers I see in the audience. Ric Shinseki ... Mr. Secretary ... and Patty, welcome. Two former chiefs ... Gordon Sullivan and Denny Reimer. Beth Chiarelli ... great to see you. John Tilelli ... cavalry to the core. And Dick and Vicki Cody ... wonderful to see you. I know Dick always had that cavalry spirit. And Butch Saint over there ... "Blackhorse!" ... nice to see you. As I said, a cavalry kind of day.

I'd also recognize some of our other serving four-stars and members of the Army Secretariat. Thanks for coming out here and helping us celebrate today. Sergeant Major Ken Preston ... the Sergeant Major of the Army ... nice to have you here. I'd also recognize the Old Guard and the Army Band. Thank you very much ... not only for what you bring to the ceremony but for what you represent ... the men and women of the greatest Army on earth. Thank you. [Applause]

I also want to recognize the IMCOM garrison commanders and sergeants major. They're all here today. Thank you in advance for the great work you're doing in support of the men and women of our Army. [Applause]

We're here today to bid farewell to a great Army Family and to honor the service of one of our great command teams ... Bob and Lynn Wilson. We pay tribute today to their tremendous leadership and to their absolute commitment to Soldiers and Families ... a commitment they have delivered on for over 37 years.

Bob and Lynn have a plethora of family and friends visiting today. I would just like to recognize their children ... Brian and Elizabeth. They're in from Houston, Texas. It's great to have you with us. And congratulations on leaving all five grandkids at home and having a little vacation for yourselves! [Laughter]

Today, we honor a magnificent leader ... a commander who followed that timeless creed of "mission first, Soldiers always." He followed that creed to success in combat and to success in an Army career. When you talk to Soldiers about Bob Wilson, you hear about the powerful impact of his positive leadership ... about the confidence that stems from the exacting standards that he maintained. And you hear about the absolute trust that comes from his coolness under fire. Bob built those skills across a career that - frankly, as I looked back on it - surprised me in its breadth and depth.

Since his commissioning in 1972 from Indiana University, he's been decorated for valor in two wars ... Vietnam and Desert Storm. He's served in key cavalry, aviation, armored, and infantry leadership and staff positions in five of our divisions ... 2d Armored; 25th Infantry; 1st Armored; 1st Infantry; and 7th Infantry. He's led our cavalry force into the 21st Century with four years as the Cavalry Branch Chief at Fort Knox. He's also commanded the "one-quarter cav" ... 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry ... and was the 66th Colonel of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment.

He's also had the shortest tour on record in DCSOPS. This is the envy of every officer in the Pentagon. [Laughter] After two months there, he was thrust early into regimental command. And just for the record ... so you know that what goes around comes around ... he "finished" that two-month tour after two-star command, with 18 months as the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations ... one of the toughest jobs in the Pentagon.

As a brigadier, we leveraged his experience as the Deputy Commanding General of the Armor Center at Fort Knox and as the Deputy Commanding General of Recruiting Command ... positions in which he excelled. As a major general, he led the Office of Military Cooperation in Cairo ... a position he held on September 11, 2001. He commanded the 7th Infantry Division and Fort Carson and then paid us back as the aforementioned Assistant DCSOPS.

Bob is finishing this remarkable career as the Commanding General of our Installation Management Command and as our Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management ... positions he has held since 2006. As I said ... a career that is remarkable for both its breadth and its depth.

As we're also passing command of IMCOM today, I would like to say a few words, not only about Bob's accomplishments there, but about the daily contributions of the more than 100,000 men and women who make up that command and who do so much to serve our Army. As our first IMCOM commander, Bob established a lasting legacy of service to our Soldiers, Families, and Civilians. He focused on the all-important human dimension of our transformation, while leading an organization that plays an indispensable role in sustaining our Army in its eighth year at war.

The ACSIM/IMCOM team manages installations across our Army. We're talking about an Army 1.1 million strong, with over 800,000 Family members and 250,000 Civilians. It's an Army that's been deploying 150,000 Soldiers over and back to Iraq and Afghanistan for five years. And as Bob's team knows quite well, we've been realigning and rebuilding our installations in moves that will affect 380,000 Soldiers, Families, and Civilians. So it's a big and busy Army. And IMCOM handles - and handles well - everything to do with its installations: construction; barracks; Family housing; Family care; environmental programs; and morale, welfare, and recreation. They do that across more than 150 installations with a total acreage about the size of West Virginia and a budget of about $28 billion a year.

And despite the staggering scope of that responsibility, Bob has never lost sight of the bottom line: sustaining our Soldiers and Families ... the heart and soul of this force. I want to say publicly that, more than any one person, Bob provided the leadership that has made the Army Family Covenant reality ... providing a quality of life for our Soldiers, Families, and Civilians that's commensurate with the quality of their service. And last month, Secretary McHugh re-signed the Covenant as a demonstration of our continuing commitment. It was one of the first things he did as Secretary of the Army. So let there be no doubt ... Bob Wilson recognized that the strength of our Soldiers comes from the strength of their Families, and his efforts helped stabilize this force at a critical period for our Army and for our Nation. Thank you, Bob. [Applause]

Now, those of you who know Bob like I do know that he didn't do this alone. Lynn has been at Bob's side since his commissioning. For 37 years, her passion for Soldiers and Families has served us all well. Lynn has been a tireless and thoughtful advocate for Families across the Army. A former teacher, she's been an ambassador for Child, Youth, and School Services programs. She's been deeply involved - as you've heard - with the Army Teen Panel and has been a key supporter for improving the quality of life and services for Army teens.

I think that, if you asked Lynn, she would feel much like the wife of another cavalryman from another era ... Libbie Custer ... who once explained that, while life on the frontier did occasionally involve parties, dances, and formal dinners, there was also monotony, hardship, and sometimes danger. She said in 1874, "We Army women feel especially privileged because we are making history ... and we're proud of it." That sentiment is no less true today. Lynn, thanks to you and Bob for all you've done for our Soldiers and Families. We will sorely miss you both. [Applause]

Bob and Lynn are leaving ACSIM and IMCOM in good hands. Rick and Sarah Lynch bring with them a wealth of experience in serving Soldiers and Families in peace and in war. I leaned over to Bob when we were standing out there for the awards and pointed out that Rick looked a little lost in thought. I remarked to Bob that I think he's realized the scope of what he's gotten himself into. [Laughter] Rick's a proven leader, and he has the vision and the drive to continue the transformation of our installations so that they best support our Army. So welcome, Rick and Sarah. It's great to have you both on the team. [Applause]

I'd like to close with a story about Bob that demonstrates the character of the man we are fare-welling today.

It was almost 3 o'clock in the morning on 1 March 1991, shortly after a ceasefire had been declared with Iraqi forces at the end of Desert Storm. Events were in train to conduct a ceasefire ceremony with the Iraqi high command. The Commanding General of the 1st Infantry Division, Tom Rhame, called his cavalry squadron commander on the radio ... Bob Wilson. The call awakened Bob from his first good night's sleep in four days. Rhame told Bob to move as quickly as possible to reconnoiter an area near Safwan ... an airfield in southern Iraq that was being considered for the location of the ceasefire ceremony. He also told him to avoid combat if possible (no need to start the war again) but to defend himself as appropriate.

What anyone else might have seen as ambiguous guidance, Bob ... in the finest cavalry tradition ... saw it only as clear intent with maximum flexibility for subordinate commanders. About three hours later, the squadron moved out with two reinforced ground troops supported by two air troops, with an Apache company in reserve ... and precious little intelligence about what to expect. In the Army, we call that a movement to contact, and it's a cavalryman's dream. About an hour later, as the ground and air troops advanced on the airfield, the picture clarified. There was an Iraqi Republican Guards brigade dug in north of the airfield. Reminding his troops not to fire unless fired upon or in danger, Bob ordered them to continue to move to secure the airfield.

By 0830, Bob was on the airfield and met with an Iraqi colonel. "This airfield is under U.S. control, and the Iraqis must leave immediately," Bob told him. As the colonel left to consult with his boss, the Iraqis drove four tanks toward the airfield and leveled their guns at Bob's command group. Coolly, Bob moved 100 yards away and ordered the Apache troop to overfly his position as a show of force. He also alerted his troop commanders, who were facing similar situations and discussions. The Apache flyover had the desired effect, and by noon, the airfield was clear of Iraqi troops.

In a January 1999 Armor magazine article (from which I have drawn for this account), Stephen Bourque summed it up: "The Safwan incident highlights the effect of personalities on the conduct of war. The tactical chain of command was based on clear bonds of trust and mutual admiration."

It was the trust and confidence in each other that Bob Wilson had built into his Cav squadron that enabled them to move with no intelligence on three hours notice, face down a dug in armored brigade, and accomplish their mission without firing a shot. This is the same trust that binds our Army together today in our most difficult struggle yet. And this kind of trust only comes from leadership ... and from great leaders like Bob Wilson. It's at the core of everything we do as an Army.

So Bob and Lynn, good luck and Godspeed. It has indeed been a great ride. We'll miss you. [Applause]

Page last updated Tue November 3rd, 2009 at 14:09