Army celebrates 235 years at Birthday Ball on June 12, 2010
Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army and Gen. George W. Casey,Jr., Chief of Staff of the Army, cut the Army Birthday Cake.

I can't believe how lucky we are to have such a professional noncommissioned officer leading the men and women of the Armed Forces. Thank you very much.

[APPLAUSE]

[Secretary] Ric Shinseki and Patty Shinseki, thank you very much for coming out and joining us. I'm about halfway done finishing the things that you started, Ric [as Army Chief of Staff #34], but I'm going to finish them. Patty, thanks for what you do for our military children with the Military Child Education Coalition. Thank you very much.

[APPLAUSE]

Representing the Congress tonight is Congressman Buck McKeon and his wife, Patricia. We've been at war for almost nine years now, but we couldn't have done what we have done without the support of Congress and the American people. So Buck, for all of the Congressmen and women that you represent and for all the staffers who are here tonight, thank you very much for your support.

[APPLAUSE]

And to my boss and partner, John McHugh, thanks for what you do for our Soldiers and Families every day. And, most importantly, thanks for your leadership. I know there are days when you'd much rather be back in Watertown, [New York], but we need your leadership. We're glad to have you with us.

[APPLAUSE]

I promised Secretary McHugh that if he came [to this ball] tonight, he'd have a really good time. He told me he really felt like dancing tonight. If you young ladies here could help me out, we'd really appreciate that. I think he'd look great right in the middle of that star over there.

{Laughter}

Let me just recap our 234th year for you a bit. Let me just talk a little bit about what happened last year because it was another tough, but productive year for us. Our Soldiers, Families, and Civilians continue to make a difference around the world. We began the transition in Iraq and began pushing additional forces into Afghanistan to turn the tide there. We continue to carry the fights to the terrorists on their own soil. When our President made the decision last year to plus-up [our troops] in Afghanistan, we shifted our remaining effort from Iraq to Afghanistan. This was and is a huge, huge effort. Just to give you an idea of the scope of the Iraq drawdown: it's moving back more than 3 million pieces of equipment, over 40,000 trucks, and closing around 360 bases-some of them the size of small cities.

The plus-up in Afghanistan is no less challenging. We're establishing infrastructure and equipment pools of 30,000 forces in what you know is a very rugged environment.

Our Soldiers and Army Civilians are handling both of these tasks with skill and agility. This is a logistics task that no other organization in the world could have taken on, let alone have done, so well. So we ought to feel very, very good about that.

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We have also continued our modular reorganization and the rebalancing of our skills. Together, that represents the largest reorganization of the Army since World War II, and we have done it while we have been sending 150,000 Soldiers over and back to Iraq and Afghanistan every year. We are already a fundamentally different Army, and we will finish that transformation-largely by the end of next year-and we will be set as a 21st Century force.

We've also continued with our rebasing efforts-again, the largest re-stationing since World War II. By this time next year, 380,000 Soldiers, Families, and Civilians around the Army will have moved, and we will have significantly upgraded the quality of the facilities on our Army installations around the world.

Finally, even with the plus-up in Afghanistan, we've been able to continue to increase the time our Soldiers spend at home between deployments. We are coming close to meeting our interim goal of one year out, two years back for our Active forces. We actually get there for 70% of the Active force by the end of next year. And, our goal for our Reserve Component is one year out, four years back. We actually get about 80% of the Guard and Reserve there by the end of next year. So we continue to make good progress across a range of areas, and I could not be prouder of what you all have accomplished.

[APPLAUSE]

Now ... as the Sergeant Major said, our Army was established on the 14th of June, 1775 to secure a fledgling Nation's freedom against overwhelming odds. And, we have been making a difference for this country ever since. In one of America's darkest hours, we preserved the Union and made possible the new birth of freedom that President [Abraham] Lincoln described at Gettysburg [in 1863]. We ensured that "government of the people, by the people, for the people," did not perish from this earth. And, throughout our history, our Army has fought tyranny and liberated the oppressed from Europe to the Philippines, from North Africa to Northeast Asia, from Central America to the Middle East. American Soldiers have been the vanguard of American values.

And, as we gather here tonight, more than 250,000 American Soldiers still stand for those same values in faraway places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and in more than 80 other countries around the world. They are living symbols of the greatness of America and the goodness of the American people.

Our strength as an Army has come and continues to come from our Values, from our Ethos, and from our People. Because at its heart, our [Army] history is the story of our People-a history of ordinary men and women who are willing to do extraordinary things for this country and for the values and ideals for which it stands. It's a story of personal courage, selfless service, and sacrifice. It's a story that's been told by over 30 million men and women who have served this Army since it was founded 235 years ago. It's also a story of the American people sustaining and supporting their Soldiers. And tonight, we want to recognize one of those people who have gone the extra mile to support Soldiers.

We instituted the Strength of the Nation Award three years ago to recognize exceptional public service that makes a substantial contribution to the accomplishment of the Army's missions. Tonight, it's my privilege to recognize this year's recipient, Mr. Ronald Katz.

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I do believe Ronald Katz is a philanthropist whose support for American servicemen and women is unsurpassed. In 2007, the Katz Family Foundation established Operation Mend. This one-of-a-kind partnership between the UCLA Medical Center and Brooke Army Medical Center is a program which provides reconstructive surgery to our troops who've been severely disfigured in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. So far, Operation Mend has helped almost 40 men and women, restoring confidence, and helping to build resilience in our Wounded Warriors. If you would watch this video with me here, you get a sense of the difference that they're making.

[AUDIO/VISUAL PROGRAM]

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Page last updated Tue June 15th, 2010 at 14:33