By Guv Callahan, Pentagram Staff WriterAugust 20, 2015
The United States Army bid farewell to its former chief of staff and welcomed his successor during a ceremony under the hot sun on Summerall Field at the Fort Myer portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Aug. 14.
Gen. Raymond T. Odierno finished his time as the Army's chief of staff and retired after almost 40 years of service during the two-hour, full honors retirement ceremony.
The 39th Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley, was also sworn in during the same ceremony, which was attended by the Army's highest ranking officials, including Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, outgoing Secretary of the Army John McHugh, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, as well as military officers both active and retired from across the nation.
Milley assumes command as chief of staff after most recently serving as the 21st Commander of United States Army Forces Command.
A native of the Boston area and an avid Red Sox fan, Milley graduated and received his commission from Princeton University in 1980. He has served in the 82nd Airborne Division and the 5th Special Forces group, as well as a Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon. He has also served in the 7th Infantry Division, the 10th Mountain Division, the 25th Infantry Division and the 101st Airborne Division.
Carter said Milley was an excellent choice for the role.
"He's the right officer to lead our Army over the next four years," Carter said. "Mark is a leader, a warrior and a statesman."
McHugh said that with 34 years of leadership in the Army, Milley was the right man to lead the force going forward.
"Mark has the personal trust of each and every one of us, the trust to guide our Army through these next critical phases," McHugh said.
And Dempsey agreed.
"Now it's your turn," he told Milley in front of family, friends, colleagues and classmates. "As an Army, we'll continue to learn and adapt. [We'll be smaller] than at any time in our lifetime. Different? Certainly. The best in the world? You'd better believe it. Doing what the nation asks? Absolutely. In doing so, there's no more important mission than ensuring America's sons and daughters are ready. The best led, the best equipped and the best trained force on the planet. I know you understand that."
In his farewell address, Odierno offered simple but heartfelt words about Milley and his wife, Hollyanne.
"Mark Milley is an incredible Soldier," Odierno said. "Hollyanne has an incredible heart, and they love the Army more than anything. That's all you need to know."
Milley said he was committed to the job and the work Odierno did before him.
"As citizens of the United States, we were granted a gift, the most precious gift of all, the gift of freedom," he said. "That is a very, very, very expensive gift, for it is paid for in the sacrifice and the blood of those who came before us."
Milley said the Army must continue to adapt in order to remain the preeminent fighting force in the world.
"There is no cheap way to change, and more importantly, there is no cheap way to buy freedom," Milley said. "The only thing more expensive than fighting and winning a war is fighting and losing a war - and fighting and winning a war is what the United States Army is all about."
He also paid tribute to both Odierno and his wife, Linda, calling his predecessor a "moral giant" and a man of "enormous grace and enormous distinction."
These sentiments were echoed by the day's other speakers, who paid tribute to Odierno's tireless work during periods of intense conflict.
"Ray's legacy is like Ray himself," Carter said. "It simply won't fit into the space behind a podium. He's a consummate leader, and more, a very symbol of the U.S. Army. Big, strong, capable, always willing ... As a leader with over 50 months in Iraq, Ray's tenacity helped us get through the most heated period of conflict. I and my predecessors as Secretary of Defense and commanders in chief drew great confidence knowing Ray was on the ground in those trying times."
McHugh said the ceremony was bittersweet, as he was losing a battle buddy and two good friends in both Odierno and his wife.
"Ray is as fine an officer as I've ever known and a leader wholly committed to the Army," McHugh said. "At all times, he's been faithfully committed to the men and women of the United States military. Ray firmly believes Soldiers are not in the Army, they are the Army. It's always been his No. 1 job to serve them well and serve them honorably."
Dempsey reflected on the impressive legacy Odierno leaves behind.
"Ray, you stand among the giants, quite literally, of our Army's history," he said. "You cast a long and lasting shadow across the Army and the joint force. You leave behind an institution full of exceptional leaders capable of confronting the most complex challenges that we face ahead."
When it was his turn behind the podium, Odierno thanked the Soldiers of the U.S. Army for everything they do. He said there were Soldiers all over the globe - Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Eastern Europe and more - who are "the best of who we have."
"That's why I stayed in this uniform for so long," he said. "It's because of our Soldiers."
He also thanked his family and Linda, who he said was the "epitome of selfless service" and a role model for spouses across the Army.