By Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray OdiernoSeptember 15, 2014
It is truly an honor for me to be here. Distinguished guests, thank you for joining us. Congresswoman Bordallo, representing the House Armed Services Committee, I really appreciate you taking the time to be here, especially with the limited days and all the work you have to do. Thank you so much. It really means a lot. All Army Veterans, it's important to have you here today. For Congressman Skelton's family, Patty, Jim, Anita and the rest of the Skelton family, thank you for being here.
It is a great honor for me to dedicate this library to Congressman Ike Skelton. He was not just a member of Congress, a leader on the Housed Armed Services Committee, and an advocate for our military; he was also a good friend. I remember many times, when he put his finger in my chest and reminded me of the importance of education and the responsibility that we have as leaders to ensure that we develop those that come behind us. We should never forget that.
I think it's appropriate that we're doing it today. As you said earlier, thirteen years ago today, our Nation was attacked. As our thoughts are with all those that lost loved ones that tragic morning, that day demonstrated the resilience and readiness of not only this great Nation but of the U.S. Army. I believe it is absolutely appropriate that we are here on this anniversary to dedicate the Combined Arms Research Library in honor of Congressman Ike Skelton who spent his life serving his country. Our ability to respond immediately once our Nation was attacked on that fateful day was a result of his personal commitment and dedication to ensuring that our military was trained and ready. He held us accountable, and he made a personal investment in ensuring that our institution and our education system in developing professionals were all essential to our strength.
Congressman Skelton, as well known, was born in the small, rural town of Lexington, Missouri where the American story of a patriot began. A story detailing an exemplary life of honor, courage and public service; a story of unsurpassed commitment to Missouri, to his country and to all of us who wear this uniform.
He grew up during the Great Depression and World War II, during a time when the American people understood the importance of unparalleled national commitment and the importance and willingness to volunteer and serve. He grew up during a time that was termed "the greatest generation" by Tom Brokaw. Congressman Skelton dreamed of attending West Point and embarking on an Army career, but after contracting polio, his military dream was never realized; however, that never stopped him in his true love for the military and willingness to serve his country.
Attending law school, followed by serving as an attorney and then a State Senator, Congressman Skelton was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1977. He represented not only the Missouri's Fourth Congressional District for the next 34 years, but he also always represented our Soldiers, our Army, and our Nation. Rightfully so, Congressman Skelton is remembered as one of the great legislators of our time, but by us, he is remembered as a devoted advocate to learning, to teaching, to mentoring, to understanding the military art of war, the importance of developing others and those that come before us and after us.
Without a doubt, he is one of the key engineers behind how the Department of Defense operates and exists today. As a key player in the Congressional efforts to reduce inter-Service friction, Congressman Skelton participated in the drafting and implementation of the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 -- the most sweeping reorganization of the Department of Defense since 1947.
It was not just his commitment to the military and the Army as an institution but his true passion for our men and women who serve and their Families. This could not have been more evident as he fought for better housing and facilities, and as he advocated for increasing our Army end strength, which reduced the strain on our Soldiers. He did this for Fort Leonard Wood, the Missouri National Guard, Whiteman Air Force Base, but really for the entire military. Yes, he was focused on Missouri but really he was focused on national security.
It is fitting that the Combined Arms Research Library be named in Congressman Skelton's honor as he is the Father of the Modern Professional Military Education. Twenty-five years ago, Congressman Skelton led the effort to reform our military education system from entry level training all the way through our joint and senior level schooling. He did this by putting our military senior leaders on notice that they would be held accountable for implementing the reforms across our educational systems. His tenacity and untiring efforts set our Army on a course building tactical and strategic leaders capable of operating in the complex security, Joint and Interagency environments that we face today; he knew the importance that we must have competent, sound, imaginative strategic thinking.
He had a lifelong interest in military history. He understood the importance of learning from the past in order to meet tomorrow's challenges. He also understood that modern, technologically sophisticated warfare makes that requirement even more urgent today.
The individuals that will walk and continue to walk through the doors of this library are the future of our military, the leaders of our Army. It's important that they build on their experience, and that they are always learning and growing. That is what Congressman Skelton wanted, leaders who were unwavering students of the Art of War.
This library houses thousands of years of military experience and history. It represents what our military leaders are taught at each level of their military schooling. As a result of his contributions, the Army will be able to continue to build the most professional leaders this Nation has ever known. Undoubtedly, Congressman Skelton's legacy on our Army and more importantly, on our military education, will be felt for years and decades to come. All that come behind us will know that, as his name will be forever etched on this great library.
I want to thank everyone for allowing me to be here today and participate. It means a lot to me both personally and professionally. As we look at the complexity of the threats we face, the greatest advantage we have is our leaders, our non-commissioned and commissioned officers; their ability to adapt, their ability to be flexible, and their ability to understand the multiple dilemmas that we will face in the future. The intensity and passion of Congressman Ike Skelton will be reflected in their ability as we go forward as a nation.
The Strength of our Nation is our Army
The Strength of our Army is our Soldiers
The Strength of our Soldiers is our Families
That is what makes us Army Strong
Thank you very much.