March 25, 2011 - CSA remarks at Col. Sylvia Moran's Retirement Ceremony
March 29, 2011
Good morning everybody. Sylvia, you know how to pack a house. This is a great opportunity for me. Sylvia and I go back almost a decade. We served together very closely in Iraq, and it's a great honor and privilege for me to be the one who retires her from the Army.
You think you know somebody. I wake up the day after St. Patrick's Day after staying up late watching basketball games, not drinking beer (laughter), and I open up the Washington Post, and there is Sylvia on the front page of the Metro section. They said Sylvia Moran, West Point Graduate of 1980, is the only female member of that class still on active duty. She remembers hostility [from her early days at West Point] and the nickname "Stoneface."
Like I said, you think you know somebody. I don't know if some of you saw this, but it was really a fascinating article. The author talks at the beginning of the article about a 93 year old retired Sergeant Major who enlisted in the Army in 1942 a few days after women were authorized to come in during World War II. She said that as she looked around the room and saw all these female Generals and Colonels. She said she never could have imagined that. It was unfathomable to her.
Sitting next to her was a young cadet, Jennifer Hazlett, who wants to become a pilot. Jennifer has lived in a world where she never could have imagined that she couldn't do anything that she wanted to do. It's been pioneers like Sylvia who have made that possible. We're here to honor today a woman who's paved the way for women in our military for over three decades and has left a great legacy.
She's got family in here from all across the country. Her mom, Fern, and sister Teresa from Las Vegas, sister Erin, and brothers John and Tim, I will let you explain where they've all come in from, and a brother Sean couldn't be here today. Then I will leave all of their spouses and nieces and nephews to you. But nothing brings a family together, especially a big Irish family, than getting through security first thing in the morning at The Pentagon. So we are glad that you all were able to make it, and we're very glad to have you here.
I want to talk about a few of the highlights of Sylvia's career. She was in the first class of women to go through West Point, entered in 1976. I've talked over the years to a number of members of that class, and it was not an easy time. We weren't quite ready. West Point wasn't quite ready. But of the 119 women who entered that class, 62 persevered and were commissioned and have gone forward to make a great impact on our Army. Sylvia was off to the Military Intelligence Branch, off to the Basic Course, Airborne School, and then to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Fort Bragg has great family significance for Sylvia because that's where her mom and dad met. Her dad was a medic in World War II, went to OCS, and was commissioned Medical Services Corps Officer. Her mom and dad were married there in the Chapel at Bragg and had their reception in the Officers' Club. I know your dad is looking down and smiling on this and is very, very proud today.
She went into her first Battalion. Pretty much like West Point, the Battalion wasn't quite ready for a female leader. But she did right off the bat earn a reputation for maturity. Now I can tell you that may sound insignificant, but when you're comparing maturity to Airborne Lieutenants... aving been one myself, I can tell you it's not a hard cut to make. There's a great story that comes out of that time that demonstrates who Sylvia is. It's a pattern that is repeated.
She realized that they weren't accepting her, so she said, "Okay, here's the deal: anybody that beats me on the [Physical Fitness] test gets a three day pass." That is a piece of cake, right' Nobody got a three day pass. That's the way it has been for Sylvia. When she finished up her Lieutenant time and a little stint as Battalion S1, she went off to Fort Huachuca, where she went through the advanced course and became an instructor. And if just being an instructor there wasn't good enough, she was the Military Intelligence School Instructor of the Year in 1986.
She was then selected to command a company there for 18 months at [Fort] Huachuca, and we decided it was time to make her a Foreign Area Officer and teacher at West Point. With that, following her Company Command, she was sent to Graduate School in Middlebury Vermont for area studies. I am not quite sure how she parlayed this, but as part of that graduate study, she managed at least a year in Paris so she was able to learn French while she was earning her degree. She actually wrote her master's degree essay in French comparing and contrasting French and US Officer development. Not bad.
Now again, I am not quite sure how this happened, but she also parlayed that into another year or so in Paris, where she learned Arabic. If learning Arabic isn't hard enough, learning Arabic in French is something Sylvia took to another level. And again, if that wasn't enough, while she was there, she said, "I might as well get my French Jump Wings and my French Commando Badge."
So she and a few others (she being the only woman) charge off to go to French Commando School - the jump wings were a piece of cake. So as they are going through the French Commando School, she comes across a Commander who's putting his whole Company of Commandos through this course. What they found out later was that they had never had such a great completion rate in the French Company because nobody in that Company wanted to drop out and be beaten by a woman. (Laughter and Applause) So if that isn't enough, she's had a great impact on the French Army, at least a Company of French Commandos.
Then, we brought her back to the United States. Nothing's free in this Army, so after grad school and Paris, we brought her back to teach foreign languages at West Point for a few years. She taught French and Arabic. And again, if teaching French and Arabic wasn't hard enough, why don't you coach the judo team' And then why don't you coach the judo team to the National Championship in 1993 and have seven All-Americans' Not bad, Sylvia.
Sylvia, in addition to that, was named the Eastern Collegiate Coach of the Year in '93. After that we promoted her to Major. After that, we also got her fired up. She knows French, Arabic, and is zoned in on the Middle East. What is next for Sylvia' You know...Korea.
So we sent her off to Korea. She spent a year there - for an intelligence officer it is a broadening experience. It's a different kind of fight, and it's a different kind of intelligence requirement. Once we broadened her and got her focused on Korea, we said it's time to go back to Paris. So we sent her back to the French War College as a student and then kept her there for almost four years. There's more to this Paris story than I think I'm getting from these notes here.
She was one of three Americans and the only woman in a class of 110 French Officers. I will tell you the French Military was no further advanced at that time than the American Military. But she persevered and did so well that she was called on there as an instructor. So she taught National Security Strategy to French Military Officers in their native language. Again, well done.
Following that time in Paris, of course the payback comes and we sent her off to Kenya to be a Security Assistance Officer in the Embassy there. She got there about two months after that horrific bombing. Largely through her efforts she organized the recovery effort for that. In addition, she organized the Kenyan effort to go off to East Timor and support peacekeeping operations there.
Following that we brought her back to the [Department of Army] "G" staff here in the Pentagon, and we put her in War Plans. Now if you think the 82nd Airborne is a bastion of male dominance' How about War Plans' Right' We put her in there and she was a great planner - especially around the time of the early days of this war. She moved up to be the Deputy and had a great impact on assessing the [Central Command] War Plans for that whole period.
She was in the Pentagon on September 11th and distinguished herself by escorting her folks out through the smoke and the haze on that awful day here. She continued on there with [Lieutenant] General Huntoon and David Markowitz - it's great to see you down here [LTG and Mrs. Huntoon] - until Tom O'Connell came along and snatched her out of the Army staff up to be his Deputy [while he served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict]. She did a wonderful job up there until I said, "No, Tom. Four [stars] beats that."
And I asked her to come over to Iraq and be an Intel Officer for me there. That's where I really got to see the talents that she had grown over the years. When the time came to replace the Military Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador [to Iraq], I really needed someone I could trust and someone with a level of maturity and strategic understanding that would appreciate what was going on because we knew we had to keep the military and civilian efforts connected. I needed someone in there that could help keep me connected to Ambassador Khalizad. I wouldn't say Sylvia volunteered, but she willingly accepted the position and did a remarkable job keeping us together and keeping the mission on track.
Because of the great work she did there, she got some great visibility from the Vice President's office. When it came time for her to leave Iraq, she went back and worked directly with the Vice President advising him what was going on in Iraq, which was also very helpful to me.
When I came back from Iraq in 2007 and I needed someone to help me think about what the future of that mission was going to be. [We wanted to think] what the broader picture of the future of the war on terrorism was going to be - and what the role of the Army is going to be in that - I reached back out again and grabbed Sylvia. I put her on a special multi-service group that was helping the Chairman think through that whole effort. She did that for about a year or so until finally General David Huntoon hired her to be [with him] as the Director [of the Army Staff]. General Huntoon hired her to be his [executive officer], and she has been a rock there in the Director's office for three years.
Anyone who has worked on the Army staff knows what the Director's Office does to bind together this diverse group of [Department of the Army Uniformed staff] and Secretariat and keep the Army going in one direction. For the last three years Sylvia has been just remarkable in her ability to do that with a great sense of direction and always with a smile. So we certainly are going to miss you here around Headquarters.
I will just wrap this up by saying yesterday I was out at Fort Riley, and I was talking to a group of Soldiers. I was actually talking to them about the implementation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." and how that was going. At the end this young Soldier raises her hand and says, "General, what's going on with women in combat' I am being denied access to positions that will allow me to be everything that I want to be."
Sylvia there is another generation of women, not just in the Army, but in the military who are going to see other barriers fall and [then] be able to be everything that they want to be. That's about as American as you can get. That will be your legacy. Thank you very much for your services.