August 13, 2010 - Lt. Gen. Whitcomb retirement
August 17, 2010
General George William Casey, Jr.
Chief of Staff of the Army
Farewell Remarks for the Retirement of
LTG R. Steven Whitcomb
13 August 2010
Fort Myer, Virginia
General Casey: Good morning, everybody. Thanks for coming out here. Sorry we couldn't do it outside, but I think these great Soldiers in front of you look just as resplendent inside as well as out.
I'm glad you're here to help us farewell a great Army Family and a great Soldier who has served his country with distinction for almost 40 years. You all know Steve to be a gutsy tanker, and he really demonstrates a lot of chutzpah to retire on a Friday the 13th. [Laughter].
I know as you can see by his marriage to Cathy that he is one of the luckiest men around, but still, Friday the 13th is a little much. But I know that nothing is going to happen today that will ever cause us to forget the Whitmores. [Laughter].
Anyway, before I get on with honoring Steve and Cathy I'd like to recognize some of our distinguished guests. [GEN (R)] John and Valerie Tellelli, it's great to see you here. Steve was John's C3 in Korea. John has been a mentor actually to both of us and I probably wouldn't be standing here today if it wasn't for John Tellelli.
[GEN (R) Crosbie] "Butch" Saint. It's great to see you, Butch. Steve was Butch's aide when he was the Commander out at III Corps. I know he's had a great influence on Steve all through his career.
[GEN (R)] Monty and Mary Ann Meigs. It's great to see you. Steve fought for Monty in Desert Storm on the Madina Ridge. More on that later, but it's great to see you here.
And [USAF GEN (R)] Lance Smith. Lance, it's great to see you and your bride here. It's been a while. Steve was the Chief of Staff for CENTCOM when Lance was the DCG during the early days of Iraqi Freedom.
Thank you all for joining us.
Steve, I know you have a lot of family here. I'm just going to recognize the immediate family and leave the rest to you. Lauren and Jordan and Lauren's husband, Warrant Officer Kevin Springer.
This morning we honor a remarkable leader whose career has spanned the Cold War, peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, and recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over almost 40 years Steve has built a reputation as a fighter, as a teacher, and as a trainer-helping the men and women of our Army win, learn and grow.
In fact the scope of Steve's career shows the impact that one person can have on this big Army. After studying history at the University of Virginia he graduated in 1970, was commissioned in Infantry. Since then he's served in six of our divisions -- 1st Armored, 1st Cavalry, 2nd Armored, 3rd Infantry, 24th Infantry, and the 82nd Airborne. He somehow has served in the Military Intelligence Group as the S3 and the Deputy G2 of an armored division. After a switch to Armor, he's commanded Soldiers in the Cold War, Desert Storm, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kuwait. And he's taught a generation of Soldiers and leaders in ROTC, CAS3 and at the Armor Center.
After the close of the Cold War he earned a reputation as a tough tank commander, taking the 2-70 Armor into the back of Medina Ridge. He was in the center of Monty Meig's formation, and Steve's battalion fought the battle with the same precision and discipline with which they'd trained.
In the largest tank battle in U.S. history, Steve's unit contributed to the destruction of some 200 Iraqi tanks, which was a turning point in the war.
So trusted with Steve's leadership that then Colonel Meigs only had to make one radio transmission in the battle. That was after about two hours, to find out what was going on because he hadn't heard from Steve. [Laughter].
Later as the Commander of the 2nd Brigade, 24th Infantry Division, Steve observed firsthand the changing character of conflict when elements of the brigade deployed to Somalia and Haiti. His experience on these deployments made him a perfect choice to assume the duties of Assistant Division Commander in the 1st Cavalry Division when they deployed to Bosnia.
Now the fact that he just happened to be the Executive Officer to the Brigadier General's Assignments Officer sealed the deal.
Steve had the opportunity to apply a decade's worth of lessons from the '90s when he was assigned to Central Command as the Chief of Staff during the early days of Iraqi Freedom. He was an eye witness to the early days of planning the invasion for Iraq and bears a large measure of responsibility for its success.
He received Command of the 3rd Army, Patton's own. Our Army Service Component Command, Central Command. He went into Kuwait in October of 2004. He transitioned the command from direct command of multiple Corps and Divisions to a command supporting our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I can tell you, I came to rely on him to keep everything moving in and out of Iraq and during his 38 months of command there he did far more than that. I told him then, and I'll say it again now, I never worried about whether the resources would get to Iraq because he had my back. So Steve, thank you. And like Monty, I too have great confidence in your abilities.
From early in his career he's also worked to build the next generation of Army leaders. Steve taught ROTC cadets in Pennsylvania and instructed staff officers at Fort Leavenworth. As a general officer he taught a generation of armor leaders and shaped our doctrine for mounted warfare in two assignments at Fort Knox.
Because of his toughness and his integrity we chose him to become the 63rd Inspector General of our Army in February of 2008. The fact that he could bench press 300 pounds was a bonus, but we figured it might come in handy when he was doing some heavy lifting. [Laughter].
For more than 200 years Army IGs have inspected, audited, investigated, and trained in support of our Army's mission. Our IGs are our eyes, our ears, our voice, and the conscience of our Army. IGs listen to issue and concerns from our most vital resources, our people, and they convey those concerns to our leaders. IGs help us learn and grow from our experiences. The IG community does this through over 1700 Soldiers and Civilians across our Army and these professionals look at Soldier and Family issues and Army procedures and policies of which there are more than a few, and make them known and transparent so we can learn from our successes and improve on our shortcomings.
Our IGs have worked almost 4000 assistance cases in the last two years, and over 600 investigations, and they've taken hard looks at such things as the Army Suicide Prevention program, Arlington National Cemetery, Warrior Transition Units, detainee operations, our physical disability system, and our property accountability program.
Steve, many thanks for your leadership and for your service to our country. You've left us lots of work to do, but the Secretary and I always knew that we could count on you to give it to us straight, without any sugarcoating, and believe me, that was absolutely invaluable, and it's a testament to your integrity and to your character.
That said, we all know that Steve owes much, if not most of his success to his better half, the lovely Cathy, who is resplendent today in Armor yellow.
Cathy led Family Readiness Groups before there were Family readiness groups. She served as president of numerous spouse organizations. She's been involved in Army Family Action Planning from the start and she's qualified as a master trainer in Army Family Team Building.
She also claims to have made more last-minute nachos than Taco Bell since Steve never could remember to call before bringing guests. [Laughter].
Cathy has nurtured relationships among Army spouses and advised Family Readiness programs across the Army.
She has a disarming charm that leaves her as comfortable with Sergeants' wives as she is with the Army leadership.
nd I must say I had the opportunity to see some of that charm up close and personal when someone, who it was clear that Cathy thought was me, made the decision to close the Fiddler's Green-some of you will know that as the historic pub at the Army Center. Cathy does love her tankers. [Laughter]. Cathy, I will tell you only today can the truth be fully revealed. It was the Vice. [Laughter]. I'd never have done anything like that.
So Cathy, thank you for everything you've done for Soldiers and Families, and thank you for your passion for our tankers. We will sorely miss you too around the Army.
I'd like to close with something about Steve here that really demonstrates the character of the man that we're farewelling today. Yesterday he sent out his last IG notice, something he's done periodically for the last 2.5 years. I'd like to share with you how he concluded. Here's what he said.
"As I leave the Army my number one concern is the leadership skills of the young Sergeants and Officers. They are without peer in the world in warfighting but in my opinion some of those leader skills have not been taught by us by coaching and mentoring or have atrophied. This is not all attributable to the pace of operations. We are experts at talking 'to' and 'at' troops, but how good are we at talking 'with' troopers' How good are we in understanding that fear and concern don't stop when the mission is ended' I'm certainly not afraid for our Army, because we will do what we have always done, that is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. So like John Wayne, as Captain Nathan Biddle in "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon", I ride off into the sunset knowing that the Army is in good hands. Army Strong."
Steve, that says a lot more about who you are than I could ever have done. So congratulations on your magnificent service and we wish both you and Cathy and the Family good luck and Godspeed. We'll miss you. Thank you.
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