April 4, 2014 -- CSA's remarks at Lt. Gen. William Phillips retirement ceremony

By Chief of Staff Gen. Ray OdiernoApril 7, 2014

Good morning, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us as we recognize Bill and Marilyn Phillips. Today is a celebration to honor their service and to bid farewell to a great American who ends his active duty Army career with almost 38 years of unparalleled service to our Nation. A leader who lived our Army values and who dedicated himself to the Profession of Arms, Bill is the epitome of an Army Professional.

I want to put out a special thanks as always to The Old Guard, Pershing's Own, the Fife & Drum Crops, Protocol, and all of those involved in setting this up. They do such a wonderful job. It's very important that we continue to honor our traditions. And remember, our Army was built on traditions and Espirit and this is all part of that. I thank everyone for everything they do to help us today.

Sergeant Major of the Army, Ray Chandler; Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall; General (retired) Gordon Sullivan, 32nd Chief of Staff of the Army; Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and Mrs. John Campbell; General (retired) Tilelli; Sharon Burke, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy; Katrina McFarland, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition; Katherine Hammack, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations; and Heidi Shyu, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisitions -- who I know is very close to Bill and everything that he's done -- thank you so much for being here. I want to thank all the other leaders that are here today. Thank you for honoring Lieutenant General Phillips.

Bill has distinguished himself in faithful and honorable service to our country, and it is my privilege to have the opportunity to host this retirement ceremony today. I would also like to acknowledge several family, although I will not acknowledge them all because I understand there's an infantry company worth of family that's here today supporting Bill and Marilyn, but I do want to point out a few. First, Marilyn's mom, Searcy, his sisters, his nieces, his nephews. I know Bill will personally recognize you but I want to welcome all of you for coming, and for you taking the time to honor Bill today, and Marilyn, and their great service to our country.

In World War II, Bill's father, Kenneth, served as a logistician in the 24th Infantry Division in the Pacific theater, while his uncle, Harry, served as an infantryman in Europe. And his brother, Kenneth, Jr., retired from the Army National Guard as an aviator. It is clear that this is a family of service who understands what it means to sacrifice and understands what it means to protect this great country of ours.

Bill graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Animal Science, which immediately qualified him to be the head of all Acquisitions program in the Army. Bill grew up on a farm in Bell Buckle, Tennessee -- population about 200. In fact, the town is so small that Bill's brother is married to Marilyn's sister. And this is a true story: Bill judged pigs in high school as part of the livestock committee. In fact, he was the top pig judge in the state, and placed tenth at a University of Kentucky judging competition. And that immediately qualified him as he began his career as a Field Artilleryman in 1976 at Fort Sill. I do question Bill's judgment that he decided to leave the King of Battle, but Bill decided to become an aviator instead. I'm sure his decision was validated after they moved to Hawaii to fly helicopters in the 25th Infantry Division.

It's hard to imagine an officer other than Bill whose assignments and commands have been more critical to the transformation of Army Aviation: he has commanded at the Aviation Center; he trained with industry on the AH-64 Apache production; he was a Procurement Officer and Project Manager at the Aviation Systems Command; and he was a Chief of Flight Operations for Boeing Helicopters.

Bill's leadership as the commander of the Defense Contract Management for McDonnell Douglas, as a Director in the Assistant Secretary of the Army's office for Procurement, and as a commander in Defense Contract Management were essential to improving government-contractor efficiency, communications, and cost-savings for our Aviation fleet.

Since 2001, Bill's efforts were vital to Joint Force operations overseas. As a Division Chief in the Army G-8, he helped field our new Stryker brigades. At Redstone Arsenal, he spearheaded the transformation of light utility and armed scout helicopters, as well as unmanned aircraft systems. And his command at Picatinny Arsenal provided 100% of the ammunition to the Joint Force in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Most notably, as the commanding general of Joint Contracting Command -- Iraq/Afghanistan -- where I personally got to work every day with Bill -- his efforts were critical to the operations and sustainment of 130,000 coalition forces in Iraq and another 85,000 in Afghanistan at the time. He was given the heroic task to oversee Iraq and Afghanistan at a time when contracts and the money spent on contracts were at their highest. He's responsible for putting the team and process together that fixed many of the problems we initially had in our overseas contracting group during war. And I believe his processes and his work saved the United States billions of dollars. His efforts were selfless and simply incredible.

Only three months after becoming a major general -- in what must be a record -- Bill pinned on his third star and became the Principal Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. For the past four years, he's worked tirelessly to improve the acquisition process and ensure that our Army retains the decisive advantage. His contributions to equipment modernization and force protection have been invaluable, and will be essential to allowing our Army to provide expeditionary, decisive landpower to the Joint Force in the future.

Through a career of service, Bill Phillips has been the epitome of what we hope and expect of our senior leaders: a leader who is competent -- technically and tactically proficient, able to do whatever job is given to him and to do it to his best ability; a leader who is committed -- committed to Soldiers, committed to the Army, committed to our Nation. But most importantly, Bill Phillips is a man and leader of great character -- one that understands the importance of moral and ethical values, one that understands the importance of building trust in an organization, one that understands the importance of teamwork and working with others. Bill is always there for others. In fact, he sent me an email this morning. And it crossed my mind, why is he sending me an email about work this morning? That shows the selflessness of the leader that we're losing today. He represents all that we need our leaders to be. It is my honor today to thank you, not only on behalf of our Army, but also a grateful Nation for your extraordinary service. Thank you very much, Bill.


I also just want to take a moment to recognize the incredible contributions Marilyn has made, not only to our Army, but also to the Joint Force, and with our industry partners and their Families. During her 32 years beside Bill, Marilyn dedicated herself every day to her Soldier and Army family. She's led multiple Family Readiness Groups and she's volunteered with so many programs across our Army, such as Morale Welfare and Recreation, Army Community Service, the Wounded Warrior Program, scholarship committees, and child development centers -- just to name a few. For the last four years, she's been a leader for the family members of ASA(ALT), especially those that have been deployed overseas. Marilyn, we can never repay you for what you've done for our Soldiers and our Families; all we can do is give you a small thanks. I know you've done it because of the love of your Soldier, and I appreciate all that you've done. We owe you an incredible debt of gratitude. So thank you very much, Marilyn.


Bill and Marilyn -- your impact will have lasting effects on our Army. The Soldiers, Families, and civilian partners you have touched over the last 37 years will be your legacy. You have been selfless servants to those who have been placed in your charge.

Bill, you leave the active ranks knowing that your faithful stewardship has passed into the capable hands of those who you have influenced through your mentorship and your service. Rest assured they will not fail you, nor will they fail our Army or Nation.

Today, I personally lose a confidant and a trusted advisor. But most importantly, the Army loses a Soldier leader. Bill and Marilyn -- on behalf of a grateful Army, thank you for your many years of service, and for what you have done and will continue to do as you start your new life together. I wish you both the very best in this next chapter, and I hope you enjoy your well-earned retirement.

The Strength of our Nation is our Army; the Strength of our Army is our Soldiers; the Strength of our Soldiers is our Families; and that is what makes us Army Strong. Thank you very much.