Sept. 27, 2011 - Secretary of the Army remarks at portrait unveiling for Gen. (Ret.) George Casey
September 28, 2011
George, I want to thank you … this is about the twelfth time that I've spoken in this building and this is the first time that anybody has ever clapped so I have to believe that has something to do with you. [laughter]
We have so many distinguished guests in a relatively compact crowd. I will get myself in trouble, but let me recognize a few if I may:
Secretary [of Veterans Affairs] Shinseki and his beautiful bride Patty … welcome. Thank you for joining us.
Of course the current Chief of Staff [of the Army] … I have to say current because the churn here is very significant [laughter] … but the 38th Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno is here, welcome.
I know that the Vice Chief was supposed to be here, but he's out working. Oh, he is here -- well Pete, wherever you are thanks for being here, I understand that Beth is here as well.
Sergeant Major of the Army Ray Chandler and his wife Jeanne. And, I also understand that the immediate predecessor to Sergeant Major Chandler, former Sergeant Major of the Army Ken Preston was going to be here -- there he is -- hi Ken. And I know that if Ken's here, Karen's here as well -- and I can see her right there.
We have a grand slam of former Secretaries: Marty Hoffman is here -- I saw him in my office, Margaret was supposed to be with him. Lou Caldera is here with Eva, Tom White, Pete Geren -- my immediate predecessor.
You're beginning to get the drift …
General Richard Myers, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs …
Former Unders [Secretaries of the Army] as well -- Nelson Ford, and I know Joe Reeder had said he was going to be here, I'm not sure if he made it -- I hope he did.
And, also former Commandant of the Coast Guard, Thad Allen.
And on, and on, and on … so you're beginning to understand that a lot of us think that this is a very special event.
And in that regard I'd be somewhat remiss if I didn't say a particular welcome to Casey's: George and his bride Shelia … the Casey family writ large -- I know that we have his son Sean and his wife Jennifer, his son Ryan, and George's mom, the beautiful Elaine Murphy. I would say to the family, thank you for being here and thank you for providing us the chance to once again honor and express our appreciation to the 36th Chief of Staff of the Army, George W. Casey. But also to say thank you to all of you -- because like our men and women in uniform the families serve in incredibly important ways and we appreciate all that you have done in making this opportunity possible.
Now, I'm not going to go into the minute details of George's four decades of service in uniform ... we don't have enough time to do it justice, and we don't have enough time to list his many accomplishments or really capture the difference that he made at every level in the lives of our Soldiers, their Families, and our Department of the Army Civilians.
Instead I want to talk about the folks in this hallway -- and George's place amongst them … [about] the many accomplishments he had during his tenure as Chief of Staff -- I might add his incredibly successful tenure as Chief of Staff.
Now, I've mentioned many times before that I'm a recovering politician, and what we do as recovering politicians is use other people's words to describe moments and things.
So today, I'm going to borrow from one of America's first "Renaissance Ladies" -- Clare Boothe Luce. In case you don't know, Luce was an accomplished playwright, an editor, a journalist, a Congresswoman, also an Ambassador, and she was an advisor to American Presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan.
And, in one particular meeting with President Kennedy in 1962, she told him that "a great man is one sentence." She surmised that if someone were truly great -- if the things that they did were truly noteworthy -- that they could be summed up in one sentence and that one sentence would identify that particular individual. Some examples:
"The father of our country" … well, that's [George] Washington.
"He preserved the Union and freed the slaves" … well, that could only be Lincoln.
"He led the Allies to victory over Nazi Germany" … Eisenhower -- who actually could be attributed with some other sentences as well.
Now, since George left this building, I've spent a lot of time trying to think about how to capture the significance of his tenure in one sentence. And, frankly one sentence doesn't come to mind. But what does come to mind are a lot of words -- a lot of very important words that, particularly, in recent years have been so critical to our Army. But a little bit about those is a minute …
I'm not going to stand here in this storied hallway and tell you that everything that Army Chiefs of Staffs do is of great significance out in middle-America, that what Army Chiefs of Staff's do necessarily resonates with the American people the way Lincoln's, Ike's or Washington's terms and accomplishments might.
But, I will say, inside our Army … inside this building, the Defense Department … what the Chief does is hugely important. Now, I can tell you it's not always sexy … in fact it's never "sexy" [laughter] … it's never easy … but it's absolutely critical to our 1.1 million Soldiers, to their Families, our Civilians, and -- whether they know it or not -- to the American people, and to our national security interests and to the security interests of this entire country.
And, I will state very clearly that we are fortunate indeed … both as an Army and as a Nation … that Secretary Rumsfeld and President Bush nominated George Casey to be our 36th Chief of Staff back in 2007 and that that nomination was indeed confirmed.
And we were fortunate too that George … who was finishing up three pretty demanding years as the Commander of Multi-National Forces in Iraq … still had the energy, still had the passion, still had the drive for service and that sense of duty that has always been at the core of the Casey DNA.
And we were especially fortunate that his lovely bride Shelia let us have him -- because I have to tell you, after enduring three years of separation while he was in Iraq, it would have been pretty understandable if she had said "you know what George, enough's enough." But she didn't do that, she allowed him to serve and as such she continued to serve … and for that, Shelia, we're enormously grateful.
So, back to those words I mentioned ….
George's tenure as Chief began at a difficult time in our Army's history. The Army was stretched and stressed by years of war in two theaters, our Soldiers and their Families were dealing with the cumulative effects of repeated deployments and not enough time in between those deployments. Enlistments were down … and so was retention.
We heard other words at the time -- talking about how the Army was broken, or hollow. But George didn't adopt those words. Instead, he thought about it and, very appropriately I think, described it as being "out of balance" -- three pretty important words. Weighed down by our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, we were unable to do the things that armies need to do -- the things we knew we should have been doing -- things that were necessary to preserve the order and the efficiency of our All-Volunteer Force and to prepare for future missions.
So, in 2007 -- in his first year as Chief -- he implemented a plan based on four words -- four imperatives to restore balance to our Army. Those were:
Sustain -- as in sustain our Soldiers and our Families.
Prepare -- as in continue to prepare our Soldiers for success in our conflicts in Iraq and
Afghanistan … in other words, to win the wars we were in at the time.
Reset -- reset our Soldiers and equipment effectively when they come home; and
Transform -- as in transform our force and our institutions to meet the demands -- not of the Cold War -- but the demands of an uncertain future.
Now, having worked with George for a while, I knew -- as I suspect many of you do as well -- that those words weren't going to be on their own … there were going to be lists within those words -- and they were important lists … imperatives that were enormously critical objectives like Grow the Army -- to better meet our demands in Iraq and Afghanistan; improving BOG:Dwell time to relieve those troops and our families from the great stresses that they had undergone; transformation objectives designed to make our force more effective in both the current and future fights, and our systems more efficient so we're better able to procure them and we're better stewards of taxpayer resources.
After four years of hard work, tough decisions and incredible personal leadership on his part, George Casey left the Army in remarkably, remarkably better shape than that in which he found it. Our growth was completed. We helped restore a more balanced operational tempo -- including what was a more sustainable BOG:Dwell. We'd exceeded recruiting and retention objectives -- quantity and quality objectives were in fact at historic highs. And, through modularity and modernization, our Army today is more agile, more versatile, more effective on the battlefield, and better prepared to meet and defeat unforeseen threats. That's George Casey's legacy.
And so, as I -- and all of you -- walk past his portrait, soon to take a prominent place on the Chief of Staff hallway, maybe we do have a sentence … a sentence that can be tied to George Casey for many years to come:
"He restored balance to an Army stretched by a decade of war and prepared it for the challenges of an uncertain future."
That's a pretty darn good legacy … a legacy that befits a great Soldier, a great leader, and of course a great Army Family.
So, George, thank you for what you've done … and to the Casey Family all -- thank you for your great service.