General George W. Casey Jr. Retirement Remarks as Delivered Monday, April 11, 2011
April 11, 2011
Good morning ... thanks for coming out, and thank you all for your patience with the changes of the last week but, more importantly, thank you for your outpouring of support as we have wrestled with Jackson's loss. Your support is the only thing that has made this tragedy somewhat bearable. So, thank you all very much.
Secretary Gates -- thanks for those kind words and for your leadership here.
[Secretary of the Army] John [McHugh] -- thank you very much.
[Secretary of Veterans Affairs] Rick and Patty [Shinseki] -- you're always wonderful to come out and support us, so thank you.
Secretary Rumsfeld and Joyce -- you're very kind to join us today.
And [Deputy Secretary of Defense] Bill [Lynn] -- and all the members of the Defense and Army Secretariats -- thank you very much for your support of the Army.
To the rest of the military and civilian leadership -- thanks. I'll get to some of you in a minute. But, I'd like to also recognize four great Sergeants Major that are here today:
Jeff Melenger and his wife Kim -- Jeff was my Sergeant Major for the entire time I was in Iraq and he kept himself on the road trying to keep a handle on what our Soldiers needed. So, Jeff -- I don't know what happened to your foot -- but thank you very much. [laughter]
Sergeant Major [Ray] Chandler and his wife Jeanne -- the current Sergeant Major of the Army.
And, sitting next to him, are the two best looking Sergeants Major in the United States Armed Forces -- Sergeant Major Carlton Kent from the United States Marine Corps, and retired Sergeant Major Ken Preston. I served with both of them in Iraq -- you are great examples of what the noncommissioned officer corps of all our services means to our armed forces, so it's great to see you.
As Sheila and I leave the Army after all these years, we didn't want to leave without thanking the people who have supported us so well, and in particular, those who have worked so closely with us these last 4 years, but our hearts really weren't in a big ceremony. So, Mr. Secretary thanks for doing this at the last minute.
That said, I'd like to begin by thanking some of the people who have supported the Army so well over the last four years:
- Secretary Gates -- the Army is where it is today because of your support. Your willingness to accelerate of the growth of the army, the payment of retention bonuses to our junior leaders and the temporary increase in the size of the Army has enabled us to complete the largest organizational transformation of the Army since World War II while meeting the demands in Afghanistan [and Iraq] and getting to a more sustainable deployment tempo for our Soldiers. We are in a better place today because of your efforts, so thank you sir for your support.
- [Secretaries of the Army] John McHugh and Pete and Beckie Geren. You made our founding fathers look good. The enlightened civilian leadership you both provided enabled us to chart our way through what I think will come to be seen as one of the most difficult periods in our 235 year history. It was an honor and a privilege to work with you both and to have you as a boss and a partner -- and that's a little inside joke.
- My battle buddies on the Joint Chiefs and their brides: Mike and Deb Mullen ...Hoss and Sandy Cartwirght ... Gary and Ellen Roughead ... Nortie and Suzie Schwartz ... Jim and Bonnie Amos ... Pete and Lynn Pace ... Jim and Annette Conway ... and Mike and Jennie Moseley. Sheila and I value the teamwork and the personal relationships that have been forged in dealing with tough issues and tough times. We look forward to continuing those relationships in retirement.
- To the Former Chiefs [of Staff of the Army] that are here today: Rick [Shinseki], Carl [Vuono], Gordon [Sullivan], Dennis [Reimer] -- and all the rest of them -- you, better than anyone, know that this job is not a one- man show. Thanks for your willingness to listen, to advise, and to help when called on. You continue to be a great asset for our Army and for our Country.
- Coast Guard Commandants -- current and past: Bob and Linda Papp; and Thad and Pam Allen -- thank you for your support.
- And, our first 4-Star Chief of the Guard -- Craig and Cheryl McKinley. Your counsel and your willingness to help us deal with tough issues was absolutely indispensible.
- I was blessed to have two great Vice-Chiefs -- Pete and Beth Chiarelli and Dick and Vickie Cody. They led the Army Staff and orchestrated the transformation of our Army during a war. It doesn't get any tougher than that, but they had the vision and perseverance to see it through. So, thanks for making it happen.
- I've also been blessed with a great crop of Army 4-Stars who provided the leadership to guide us through these difficult times and to position us for the future. Thanks for your support. And, Sheila and I especially wish [General] Marty Dempsey and Deanie the best of luck as they take the reins here this afternoon.
- Finally, Ken and Karen Preston. Ken was our longest serving Sergeant Major of the Army and he adapted our NCO corps to deal with the challenges of 21st Century warfare and to prepare it for the future. Our noncommissioned officer corps is the glue that has held this Army together and made it successful in this decade of war. And, Ken -- more than anyone else -- is responsible for making that happen. So thank you.
There are so many more of you who have touched our family and help shape this Army that it is impossible to for me to recognize you all individually, so let me just say, thank you for the support of the Casey's and the support of your Army.
Now, this wouldn't be a retirement ceremony if there wasn't a bit of reflection. And, I've seen the Army go through a lot in the last forty years. Though, it was hard for me to believe as I calculated this -- I did a little Casey-math -- that those 40 years represent only about 1/6th of the history of this great institution . As I look back on them, the last forty years have been ones of almost continuous adaptation and change, although I must confess that I didn't necessarily see that as I was going through it.
In those forty years, we have gone from a not very good draftee-Army wrestling with the aftermath of an unsuccessful war and a burgeoning Communist threat, to an All-Volunteer Force that has successfully accomplished every mission given it by our national leadership.
As we came out of Vietnam in the 70s we converted from a draftee Army to an All-Volunteer Force while we struggled with refocusing the Army on the defense of Western Europe. In the 80s, we recognized that we had become a "hollow" force incapable of meeting the national security expectations of our country -- we resolved to right ourselves -- and we did. The Army that was built in the 80s won the lightning victory of Desert Storm almost two decades after the last combat battalion left Vietnam. In the 90s, after the Berlin Wall came down and we concluded the Cold War on our terms, we struggled to define our future role. We also launched into the internecine conflicts in the Balkans and saw firsthand how people seeking freedom from oppression looked upon the American Soldier as a way to protect them in that quest. Looking back, those days were harbingers of things to come.
On September 11th, 2001 all our worlds changed. The days since have seen huge change as we've gone from a very good Cold War Army, to the best counterinsurgency force in the world. In the almost three years I spent in Iraq before becoming Chief, I saw brave American men and women liberate millions of Iraqis, stand as a shield between the innocents and the extremists, and rebuild a Nation -- all the while adapting to a different form of warfare than we prepared for.
I like to say that I spent the first 30 years of my career preparing to fight a war I never fought and the last 10 learning to fight a different form of war while I was fighting it. If I've learned nothing else in forty years it's that, no matter how smart you think you are -- you can't read people's minds and you can't predict the future -- so change is the norm.
I'd like to share with you something that Frank Reynolds said on the ABC evening news on the night ninth of July, 1970 that's at once indicative of the Army I entered and prophetic of the Army we would become and the kind of leaders we would need to make that change. Here's what Frank said:
"It seems fair to say that professional soldiers are not at the top of the list of the most admired men in America these days. For many people, just to hear the words, the generals of the Pentagon or the generals in Vietnam, is to think of heartless types, concerned only with personal glories, caring nothing about the men they commit to battle. Perhaps that was not an entirely inaccurate image of high commands in past wars. But it is completely wrong in the present one.'
'In the past two months both the United States and the South Vietnamese have lost general officers who were wholly devoted to their profession and to their troops. General Nguyen Viet Than of the South Vietnamese army was killed in a helicopter crash just a few days after the Cambodian invasion began. South Vietnamese generals are generally thought of as a bunch of corrupt smugglers and black marketers, and unfortunately, some fit that description. But there are exceptions - after General Than died, it was discovered that his entire estate consisted of a few sets of fatigues, one dress uniform, a wife and 7 children. No villa, no Swiss bank account, not even a motor bike.
General George Casey, the commander of the 1st Air Calvary Division, now missing in Vietnam, was one of those men who had Soldier written all over him. There was no trace of the martinet in him. He was a man for whom the responsibilities of high command were much more important than its privileges. He accepted all of the first, he abused none of the second.
General Casey and General Van knew war and hated it, perhaps more than the rest of us. They were splendid examples of military men who were not really militaristic. We don't give them much credit these days as some of us shout and all of us long for peace now, but it is still an imperfect world, and the time will certainly come when not only will the George Casey's' of this world be needed, they might even be appreciated."
Today, the Army I joined in 1970 appears no more than a distant, almost unrecognizable cousin to the Army that's leading the Nation in this war. The army I entered was a fractious, weary, hollow force -- not respected or appreciated by the population we served.
As we stand here today, our Army is recognized as the best in the world at what it does. Today, the men and women of our armed forces are embraced by the Nation and routinely hailed as among the most respected professionals in the country.
We're emerging from a decade of war and transformation with a well-equipped, combat-seasoned Total Force that -- while still stretched by the demands and lingering effects of a decade at war -- is able to begin preparing for the challenges of the second decade of the 21st Century.
Over the past four years, I have watched our men and women in action in the most demanding combat environments and on training grounds around the world. I couldn't be prouder of their courage, their resilience, and their commitment to the values and ideals that make this country and this Army great. Their willingness to sacrifice to build a better future for others and to preserve our way of life is a great strength of this Nation. They epitomize what is best about America. I am extremely proud to have led that Army.
I want to close by recognizing my family: my dad and mom who instilled in me the importance of family and the values and the determination to succeed that have guided my life. Mom, the courage you've shown over the last week tells me you're still a pretty tough old girl. [laughter]
My brothers, sisters, and extended family and friends who have been so supportive over the years and so ready to be there when we needed them -- as we have this last week.
My boys, Sean and Ryan, who I couldn't be prouder of, and who have grown up to be wonderful husbands and fathers after a few questionable early years [laughter]. And their wives and children, Jenn, Laura, Jackson, Conor, Reilly, Declan and Lakin. They bring joy to our lives.
Finally, the love of my life -- Sheila. Seems like just yesterday I was driving a wide-eyed former resident of Westchester County past the shanties of central Georgia in a Ford Falcon station wagon and checking her into the Camellia Apartments in Columbus, Georgia -- the home of the Infantry. That was over 40 years ago. We watched each other grow up in the Army. She's the most thoughtful, efficient and caring person that I've ever met, and has used those traits to have a career, raise a family and make significant contributions to the Soldiers and Families -- all without much help from me. Sheila, I love you and look forward to the next 40 years. [Applause]
For 235 years, the Soldiers, Families and Civilians of this Army have served our Nation with unsurpassed courage, selflessness and dedication. I could not be more proud to have led this Army through this period of challenge and uncertainty. It has been the greatest honor and privilege of my career. Sheila and I wish you only the best in the years ahead. We will miss you all. Good luck and God speed. Thank you.