Sept. 7, 2011 - Gen. Odierno at Change of Responsilibity Ceremony
September 8, 2011
Secretary Panetta, Secretary McHugh, and General Dempsey, thank you for the warm remarks and your welcome today. I appreciate the confidence of President Obama, all the leaders of the Army and in Joint Force in allowing me the honor of assuming the duties as the 38th Chief of Staff of our Army.
I would also like to pass along my welcome and many thanks to the Members of Congress here today. You do so much for our men and women of our America's Armed Forces. We couldn't do it without the great partnership we have. Thank you so much for what you do!
My gratitude to our Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, and the other members of the Joint Chiefs who are here with us today. It is an honor to join your team. And, my thanks to our former Chairmen, our Army's former Chiefs of Staff, and former Secretaries. To all of our senior civilian leaders from Secretary of Defense's Office, the Army, and all the Services, you humble me with your presence here today.
I am extremely grateful to see my many friends, colleagues, and mentors present today. I believe there actually at least one person from every assignment I have had in the Army here today. And, I want to personally recognize my first three Battalion Commanders in the Army that are here today: Colonel (Retired) Fred Pope, Colonel (Retired) Philemon St. Amant, and Colonel (Retired) Art Rodriguez, as well as three of my former Brigade Commanders: Major General (Retired) John Michitsch, Colonel (Retired) Larry Aaron, and Colonel (Retired) Dick Gerding. Their leadership, mentorship, and example allowed me to learn, make mistakes and flourish as a young officer, and frankly, they instilled in me the passion and love for the Army that I have today. So, I want to thank you all so much for that.
I see a number of my international partners from around the world, but my time in Iraq and elsewhere. I, welcome, and thank you for sharing this day with America's Army. I am grateful for your continued support and friendship.
We are, of course, joined here today by my partner and new boss…Secretary John McHugh. Sir, special thanks for your leadership of the Army over the last two years. I look forward to working closely with you -- and all of our Army Civilians -- as we build on the momentum created by you and General Dempsey. I also want to extend my appreciation to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to be here today. More importantly Sir, I want to thank you for your long and dedicated service to our country. You are also a great representative of what it means to succeed, and care, and dedicate yourself to the ideals of this country.
I also want thank and to give a great deal of thanks to the great West Point Class of 1976 -- if you are here, please let me hear you. I have received hundreds of notes and I want to particularly thank those who are here today, which I think is over 100, especially since our 35th reunion is just 10 days away. I could not be more proud of their contributions to the Nation. They are incredible businessmen, doctors, academics, and governmental leaders and I also believe there are over 30 General Officers who come out of the Class of 1976.
Of course, as I look back, if there had been a fantasy draft of future General Officers back in 1976, I'm believe I would have been an undrafted free agent. So, I would just say it can happen for anybody…for all the young officers out there.
I also would like recognize the magnificent troopers standing before us today here in Comey Hall. I'm always inspired by the sight of the 3d Infantry Regiment -- The Old Guard as well as the Army Band and the Fife and Drum Corps. They represent the entire Army Team -- our National Guard, our Reserve, and those on active duty. They are a special breed and are the essence of what makes us the best Army in the world.
To the members of my family -- The Odiernos and the Burkarths and extended family -- you have come out again in mass, traveling from all over the country, to support Linda and I. Thank you for taking time to be here.
To our wonderful children, my son Tony and his wife Danielle, my daughter Katie and her husband Nick, and Michael -- and of course my three grand child-sons Brennan, Gianluca, and Alessandro -- you enrich our lives -- thank you for your love, support, and sacrifices throughout the years. Very few people understand the sacrifices our children make for us to be successful and move forward to achieve what we try to achieve in our Army. You have allowed me to chase my passion to be a Soldier. And, I love all of you for allowing me to do that.
To my high school sweetheart Linda, who has been at my side throughout this entire journey since I was a 17 year old headed off to West Point. Thank you for taking on one more exciting adventure with me. You have always been my rock and I stand in awe as I've watched you through the years dedicate yourself -- not only to our family, but also to the Soldiers and spouses of our Army. You inspire me every day. And, you are the love of my life.
To my mother-in-law Hilda Burkarth, I know how proud you are of Linda. And, I want to thank you for entrusting her to me. Because, she is my hero.
As I stand here today, I wonder what my Grandfather Silvio would be thinking. He was an Italian immigrant who came to New York City in 1899 with his father who started at business as a butcher. My guess is he never envisioned his grandson would have the opportunity to lead the U.S. Army.
I also know that my father Ray, mother Helen, and father-in-law Karl are looking down on me today. Both my father and father-in-law served in World War II and my uncle retired from the Senior Executive Service of the Army. I know they are up there with Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates sitting around -- very proud -- and of coruse toasting me with a martini…that is a requirement in the Odierno family. My family has been the foundation of everything I have achieved.
Five short months ago General Martin Dempsey stood here and assumed the duties as the 37th Army Chief of Staff. Some might say he just can't hold a job. But, all of us know well that is not true. We know that he and Deanie have a greater calling to lead us through challenging times as he takes the helm from Admiral Mike Mullen as the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Marty, you have led our Army well and set us on a path to be a relevant part of the Joint Force. You are the right leader at the right time. All of us in the Army are proud of what your accomplishments and proud of what you are about to do. Linda and I wish you and Deanie the very best as you move forward.
As you all know, this week is the 10th Anniversary of 9-11 and I would just say that over the last 10 years our Army has proven itself in arguably the most difficult environment this nation has ever faced. Our leaders at every level have displayed unparalleled ingenuity, flexibility and adaptability. Our Soldiers have displayed mental and physical toughness, but most importantly, courage under fire. They have transformed the Army into the most versatile, agile, rapidly deployable and sustainable strategic land force the world has ever known. I am proud to be a part of that Army, and I am proud I have the opportunity to serve with these great men and women, the next greatest generation, and I'm humbled and honored to serve as the 38th Chief of Staff of the Army.
But, today is like no other time in our history. It is a time of uncertainty and historic change. We face a multitude of security challenges, such as transnational and regional terrorism in places like Yemen, Somalia, North Africa and Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. We have the uncertainty of the Arab Spring and the proliferation of nuclear weapons and we face the challenges of rising powers. All of this underpinned by our own fiscal challenges.
We will face some difficult resource decisions within Department of Defense as we determine those essential characteristics and capabilities which we will need in our Joint Force to meet our future challenges. I pledge that I will work with all of the Joint Chiefs, Service Secretaries, and Secretary of Defense as we face these very difficult decisions.
But, I do have a word of caution. We must avoid our historical pattern of drawing down too fast and getting too small, especially since our record of predicting the future, frankly has not been very good. As we make difficult resource decisions, we must be thoughtful in understanding the risk we incur to the future security of this great Nation.
Today, the Army must continue to provide trained and ready forces to ensure we prevail in our current missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the future, we must ensure that our Army remains our national force of decisive action -- a highly relevant and effective force across the spectrum of conflict.
In order to do this, we must sustain our all volunteer Army today and in to the future, foster continued commitment to the Profession of Arms, and develop adaptable and thoughtful leaders. We must provide depth and versatility to the Joint Force, be effective in our employment, and ensure flexibility for national security decision makers in defense of our interests at home and abroad.
We will preserve the readiness in our Total Force and maintain our trust with Soldiers
and their Families -- they are the foundation of our Army.
For over 236 years, our Army has overcome many challenges. Change and transition are not new to the American Soldier. From Valley Forge to the Korangal Valley, the men and women of our Army have answered our Nation's call. We will continue that momentum.
Thank you so much again for being here today. I could not be more proud to be a Soldier, serving alongside the great men and women that willingly serve our country. The strength of our Nation is our Army; the strength of our Army is our Soldiers; the strength of our Soldiers is our Families. This is what makes us Army Strong!
God Bless all of you. Thank you very much.
End of Remarks