McChrystal retires amid praise for career
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal stands at attention during his retirement ceremony at Fort Lesley J. McNair in Washington, D.C., July 23, 2010. McChrystal retired from the U.S. Army after 34 years of service to his nation during both peace and war time.

The Casey-McChystal connections go back a long ways. Stan's the fourth of six siblings, all of whom served in the military or married someone in the military. So I'd just to take a moment to recognize the immediate family who's here.

First of all, the brothers, Peter, David, Scott and Bill, where are you' Wave your hands. Great, nice to see you. (Applause.)

Sam is Stan and Annie's son. Sam and his fiancAfAe, Stacy -- I hope I got that right -- wave your hands. There you go. (Applause.) If that's not right, Stacy, work it for everything it's worth. And, of course, Stan's best friend, Annie. (Applause.)

I know you've got many more family and friends here, Stan, so I'm going to leave that to you.

Today, we honor a magnificent soldier and leader and one of the Army's most experienced and successful officers. Stan has had a truly remarkable career in both peace and war.

So I must admit I found it interesting when I looked at Stan's officer records brief; something that it was clear that Stan has not looked at since he was a second lieutenant. The officer records brief is the Army's documented record of a soldier's career, and it has a box on it where it tracks the officer's dwell. That's the time they spend at home between deployments.

According to Stan's most recent brief, he has accumulated 415 months and 11 days of dwell. Now, even using Casey math, that's over 34 years at home. So either Stan's deployments have been so secret he couldn't share them with us, or we couldn't quite get him into the fight. But I think it's the former and not the latter.

The reality is that Stan has done more to carry the fight to al-Qaeda since 2001 than any other person in this department and possibly in the country. His vision, his innovative genius, his ability to bring disparate organizations together and his unrelenting drive and commitment to defeating the extremists that threaten our way of life have kept al-Qaeda off balance around the world and kept this country safe.

Stan, we are in your debt.

Now, usually when I lay out an officer's career, I normally talk about how many corps and divisions they've served in, but Stan's career has been unique.

He began his formative years as a paratrooper in 82nd Airborne Division following his graduation from West Point in 1976. His first battalion was the Red Devils of the 1st Battalion 504th Parachute Infantry.

But jumping out of planes didn't seem to be exciting enough for Stan, so he volunteered for Special Forces, qualified and commanded a detachment in the 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg before he headed off for the Infantry Advanced Course.

After a tour in the United Nations Command in Panmunjom, Korea, he returned to Fort Stewart, Georgia, and the 24th Infantry Division for company command.

It was following this company command in 1985 that Stan chose the path that he would follow for the rest of his career. He was accepted into the 3rd Battalion 75th Rangers, and he has been a leader in our special operations community ever since.

Along the way, he mixed challenging assignments in the Rangers, Joint Special Operations Command and the 82nd Airborne Division with broadening experiences at the Naval War College, the JFK Center of Government, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the joint staff.

He left lasting contributions at every level. As a major, during the liberation of Kuwait, he delivered the highly successful special operations actions into Iraq. As the commander of the 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers, he spurred the beginning of the modern Army combaters program.

And as the chief of staff of Combined Joint Task Force 180 in the early days of Afghanistan, he established the headquarters that came to direct Operation Enduring Freedom.

While serving as the vice J-3 in the Pentagon at the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Stan was selected to deliver the daily Pentagon press and Hill briefings on the war. Now, candidly, he didn't have to put up much of a fight for that, but he took the job and did it magnificently.

It was as the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command where I believe Stan made his greatest and most lasting contributions to our Army and to this country. He personally oversaw the successful hunts for Saddam Hussein, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other key al-Qaeda leaders.

He brought the intelligence community together in support of his operations by sheer force of will and unrelenting commitment to the mission.

Thinking back to 2003 and 2004, no one had really done the kinds of things Stan's folks were required to do. So he wrote the book and pulled the interagency together in support.

And not satisfied with just improving his own capabilities, Stan saw the utility in migrating these skills to our general-purpose forces, something he progressively did over time and something that has exponentially increased the effectiveness of our forces in prosecuting this war.

For me, working with Stan in Iraq was a privilege. I can honestly say that the work his team did against al-Qaeda made our success there possible. They applied continuous and progressive pressure against a constantly evolving network by building an organization that rewarded teamwork, innovation and risk-taking.

I watched Stan through the low lows of a just-missed target or lost comrade and the high highs of the Zarqawi operation. Throughout it all, he remained calm, focused and committed.

Although I do remember the night that we thought we had killed Zarqawi but still weren't sure. Stan had the body brought to his headquarters compound for identification. We decided not to tell anyone until we were sure, so Stan went down to check out the body and called me.

He said, "General, we've been tracking this guy for two and a half years, and I think it's him." I said, "How sure are you'" He responded quietly, "I'm sure." And that was the first and only time in our time together there that I heard his voice crack with emotion.

Following his time at JSOC, Stan was given a break as the director of the joint staff, the position he held when he was chosen by the president to head the International Security Assistance Force.

I'm going to leave the discussion of that period to Secretary Gates, but I believe that, in his time there, Stan began to establish the conditions for our long-term success.

When you ask soldiers about Stan McChrystal, what they think, here's what they say. They say he's a great leader. They say that, in fact, his people trust and respect him in a way that is truly remarkable. They say he's a man of integrity and great personal courage. They say he's always ready to laugh even in the most trying circumstances. And they say that he's absolutely selfless.

These are the traits of a leader that we value in our Army. In over 34 years, Stan McChrystal has applied them as he selflessly dedicated his life to protecting this country.

And while his operational experiences span the spectrum of conflict, I can think of no officer who has had more impact on this country's battle against extremism. He leaves a legacy of service that will be emulated for decades. (Applause.)

Annie, now, most of you know that Stan and Annie were high school sweethearts. And when folks think about Annie, the first word that usually comes to mind is "strength." Not only is she a marathoner, but she has survived and braved the marathon of Army life.

This is a testament to your overall, amazing inner strength. And she's needed that to navigate the last decade while Stan has committed himself to fighting this war especially since I've been told he's developed a few idiosyncrasies along the way.

One story claims that Stan has lived on Zulu time for so long that, when he comes home, he has Annie change all the clocks in the house to Zulu time. Another is that he's so accustomed to PowerPoint briefings that Annie has to slip him a slide if she's wants to get something important to him.

Now, I am sure none of that is true, but if it were, Annie would figure it out. Annie's been at Stan's side throughout his career and, as importantly for our Army, she has been there for the soldiers and families and communities across the United States.

Her commitment has been a personal one illustrated by her visits to wounded warriors, her presence at family readiness groups and her volunteer work, including the toughest but the most rewarding of assignments, raising an Army family.

Annie's contributions make it especially hard to say goodbye to the McChrystals. So, Annie, thank you for your courage, for your strength and for your commitment to the soldiers and families of our Army. (Applause.)

For 34 years, Stan McChrystal has been the man in the arena. His face has been marred by the dust and the sweat and the blood of combat in defense of this nation. He's demonstrated the kind of infectious personal courage that has inspired anyone who served with him. He is a soldier to his core. Our Army and this country will miss him deeply.

There is a monument in Burma in a British cemetery to recognize the sacrifice of a British division in World War II. It says: When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.

Stan and Annie have given their todays for 34 years so the people of this country and those in Iraq and Afghanistan can have a better tomorrow. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

And Stan and Annie, thank you for your service and for your friendship, and the entire Army family wishes you good luck and God speed.

Page last updated Sun July 25th, 2010 at 17:01