McChrystal retires amid praise for career
July 26, 2010
WASHINGTON (July 23, 2010) -- Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who most recently commanded all U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, retired today in a ceremony here near his Fort McNair home.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called McChrystal one of America's greatest warriors and a treasured friend and colleague.
"We bid farewell to Stan McChrystal today with pride and sadness," Gates said. "Pride for his unique record as a man and soldier; sadness that our comrade and his prestigious talents are leaving us.
"This consummate ranger possessed one of the sharpest and most inquisitive minds in the Army," the secretary continued.
McChrystal's contributions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were groundbreaking, Gates said, as the general "employed every tool available" to create success on the battlefield.
"Over the past decade, no single American has inflicted more fear and more loss of life on our country's most vicious and violent enemies than Stan McChrystal," he said. "Commanding special operation forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, Stan was a pioneer in creating a revolution in warfare that fused intelligence and operations."
And when violence in Iraq seemed almost unstoppable in 2006 and 2007, McChrystal and his special operators all but "crushed al-Qaida," Gates said.
"It was a campaign that was well underway before the surge, ... when so many had given up hope in our mission there," Gates said. "Stan McChrystal never lost faith in his troopers, never relented, never gave up on Iraq."
"And his efforts played a decisive part in the dramatic security gains that now allow Iraq to move forward as a democracy and drawdown U.S. forces there."
Pentagon officials called on McChrystal again last year, after deciding the mission in Afghanistan needed "new thinking, new energy and new leadership," Gates said. McChrystal was without a doubt the best leader for the job, he added.
"I wanted the very best warrior-general in our armed forces for this fight," Gates said. "I needed to be able to tell myself, the president and the troops that we had the very best possible person in charge in Afghanistan. I owed that to the troops there and the American people."
Gates also recognized McChrystal's wife, Annie, and son, Sam, for their support to the nation.
"Like so many Army families since 9/11 ..., they have endured long separations from their husband and dad, and like so many families, they have done so with grace and resilience," Gates said.
Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said McChrystal is a true warrior and professional, calling him one of the most experienced and successful officers in today's Army.
His career has been unique and amazing, Casey said, noting his various assignments in special warfare units, as well as positions on the Joint Staff and as commander of forces in Afghanistan.
"Stan has had a truly remarkable career in both peace and war," Casey said. "He has walked the career path of a warrior, scholar and statesman."
"[McChrystal's] operational experiences span the entire spectrum of conflict," Casey continued. "The truth is that Stan has done more to carry the fight to al-Qaida since 2001 than any other person in [the Defense Department], and possibly the country."
McChrystal was always admired by his troops, and always dedicated to them and his country, Casey said. McChrystal leaves a legacy of service that will be emulated for decades, he added.
"I can't think of no officer who's had more impact on this country's battle against extremism," he said. "For 34 years, Stan McChrystal ... his face has been marred by the dust and sweat of combat. He is a warrior ... our Army and our nation will deeply miss him."
McChrystal resigned amid controversy last month after Rolling Stone magazine published a high-profile article in which the general and his aides made disparaging comments about top Obama administration officials.
President Barack Obama nominated Gen. David H. Petraeus for the job on June 23. Petraeus was confirmed by the Senate on June 30.
"This has the potential to be an awkward, or even a sad occasion," McChrystal said. "With my resignation, I left a mission I feel strongly about. I ended a career I loved that began over 38 years ago, and I left unfulfilled commitments I made to many comrades in the fight."
"My service did not end as I would have wished," he continued. "Still Annie and I aren't approaching the future with sadness, but with hope."
McChrystal said his career has amassed some amazing moments and memories, but it's the people he served with who he will remember most. He noted the many officers and enlisted Soldiers he rose through the ranks with, as well as civilians he worked with in Afghanistan.
"It's always about the people," he said. "It was about the Soldiers who were well trained; the young sergeants who emerged from the ranks with strength, discipline, commitment and courage."
"To have shared so much with, and been so dependent on people of such courage, integrity and selflessness, taught me to believe," he said.
None had more of an impact on McChrystal throughout his life and career than his wife, he said.
"She's always been there when it mattered," he said. The McChrystals are high school sweethearts who've been married for 33 years. "As we conclude a career together, it's important for you to know that she was there."
"She was there when my father commissioned me a second lieutenant of infantry, and she was waiting some months later when I emerged from Ranger School," he said. "As the years passed and the fight grew every more difficult and deadly, Annie's quiet courage gave me strength I would never otherwise have found."
McChrystal's service spanned four decades. He assumed command in Afghanistan in June 2009, following then-commander Gen. David McKiernan's resignation. Obama's order for an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan was based on McChrystal's assessment of the war there.
Before serving in Afghanistan, McChrystal was the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. He also served as the commander of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., and its forward-deployed command, where he led special operation troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
During his five-year command with JSOC, he oversaw special operations in successful missions that captured Saddam Hussein, killed al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, as well as other high-profile capture-kill missions.
McChrystal graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1976. He was commissioned as an infantry officer, and spent most of his career commanding special operations and airborne infantry units.
"As I leave the Army to those with responsibilities to carry on, I'd say service in this business is tough and often dangerous," McChrystal said. "If I had it to do over again, I'd do some things in my career differently, but not many. I trust in people, and I wouldn't have had it any other way."