ARMY CHANGE OF RESPONSIBILITY
0930, AUGUST 9, 2019
FT MYER, VA
Good morning, and welcome to today's ceremony: an occasion to celebrate the achievements of our chief and sergeant major -- while also welcoming their successors, who will build upon their achievements and take the Army to new heights.
I first met Mark Milley more than a decade ago when we overlapped in Secretary Gates' front office. Initial impressions were of a guy out of central casting from Boston, fresh off a "Black Op" that no one could talk about, ACUs covered with every tab and patch you could think of -- who also happened to possess two Ivy League degrees. And he's been my teammate, partner, and friend ever since.
So I am not exactly objective when it comes to General Milley. But any fair-minded observer would argue that his tenure as chief has been one of the most consequential in recent Army history.
Through General Milley's unyielding focus and determination -- and with help from the Congress and the President -- the Army went from a readiness trough to a readiness peak: from two brigades receiving the highest readiness rating to more than 25; from units trained near exclusively for their next CENTCOM rotation to become proficient in the full spectrum of combat operations.
But his legacy goes well-beyond being the "Readiness Chief."
Under General Milley and Secretary Esper, the Army began its long overdue shift: from systems designed to defeat the Soviet Union to capabilities that can conduct Multi-Domain Operations against the most capable modern adversaries; from the iconic but ageing "Big Five" platforms to the Six Modernization Priorities that will define American land power for another generation.
Recognizing that a 21st Century modernization plan and concept of operations would be hard to achieve with a 20th Century bureaucracy -- General Milley stood up Army Futures Command, the biggest structural change within the service in decades.
As someone who never forgets about the 242 soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice under his various command, General Milley recognized that the Army could not repeat the institutional mistakes of the past. He made it a personal priority to stand up and support the Security Force Assistance Brigades, recognizing that, whether we like or not, the Army has not seen the last of counterinsurgency or the train-and-equip mission that goes with it.
This occasion also does not allow enough time for a proper tribute to the service and contributions of Holly Anne Milley. Through more than 35 years, and what probably seemed like 35 moves, playing the primary role in raising two children, Mrs. Milley has been the General's sweetheart, partner, confidante, de-facto senior advisor…and senior-rater.
Holly Anne took on the hard things, the gut-wrenching things, that probably weren't in the Army Spouses Manual when she first signed up: countless visits to military hospitals to see grievously wounded soldiers and their loved ones; being there at Dover with the families of the fallen when the flag-draped caskets come off the C-17; as a tireless advocate for Army families. And doing all this while caring for her patients as a physician's assistant.
And her work is not yet over. Because, as we all know, General Milley may be leaving the Army as an institution, but he will continue to wear the Army uniform -- albeit with some purple trimming -- as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The elevation of James McConville provides important continuity -- in policy, priorities, and, as another Bostonian, when it comes to the Red Sox and Patriots.
But this transition provides also noteworthy and valuable firsts that are particularly important to the Army at this point in time.
General McConville will be the first aviator to be Army chief. Armed with a Masters Degree in Engineering to go with decades of flying and maintaining fleets of helicopters, he brings a unique understanding of how to operate and support complex weapons and equipment.
In this respect, no senior officer is better prepared to lead the Army as we undertake what will be a massive, and yes, risky and costly transformation towards more advanced weapons and warfighting approaches.
General McConville also is the first Army G-1 to be elevated to the job in nearly a half-century. Having gotten Army modernization off to a running -- if bruising start -- one our next big leadership challenges will be people. Starting with talent management but also dealing with the serious issues related to sexual harassment and assault, suicide, domestic violence, and more.
Lest there be any doubt, General McConville brings impeccable warfighting and leadership credentials to this post. He has the distinction of being the longest-serving division commander in Army history -- seeing the 101st through three years and multiple combat deployments.
It's not so well known, but then-Colonel McConville and his First Cavalry aviators played a decisive role in the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq: flying low and slow, through withering fire and bad weather to provide support to the soldiers, marines, and Iraqi Security Forces fighting down below. As he later told the Army his story, "if they were out there, we were out there."
Supporting him through that ordeal and other deployments was Maria McConville who, for over 31 years of marriage raised three children -- all Army officers today -- and led Family Readiness Groups at every echelon. Not as well known: Maria is also a very successful businesswoman working as a dietician.
I thank the McConvilles for stepping forward for one last tour of duty and look forward to our continued partnership on Army's priorities.
As I mentioned at the outset, the great leaders being celebrated and elevated today include the Army's senior non-commissioned officer.
When Sergeant Major Dailey took the post three [sic] years ago, he became the youngest ever Sergeant Major of the Army and the one with the most combat deployments. He didn't waste any time making an impression -- distributing a list of Top Ten Tips for sergeants major. With my favorite, quote, "I've never regretted taking the distinct opportunity to keep my mouth shut."
Sergeant Major Dailey will be remembered for his instrumental role in the Army's readiness gains -- as well as his singular role launching the NCO credentialing program, which allows soldiers to gain credit that can be applied towards a college degree or job certification.
Additionally, Sergeant Major Dailey has a unique ability to work complex and sensitive Army issues on Capitol Hill. Time and time again his advocacy and credibility yielded a budget increase or prevented a loss of trust -- attributes that also made him such an effective communicator of the Army story in the news media.
Like the other great Army leaders being honored today, Holly Dailey has provided selfless service to our country, being there when times were at their most challenging -- for her husband, and for countless Army families. America owes the Daileys a debt of gratitude for the contributions they have made and the example they have set for others.
The Army's next Sergeant Major, Michael Grinston, has the distinction of being a cannon crewman with a Ranger Tab, which he put to good use in Iraq when his field artillery unit, like many others, were turned into de-facto infantry for long stretches. In fact, according to a 2005 Stars and Stripes account, then-Sergeant Grinston became known as a, quote, "magnet for bombs and bullets," which led to two bronze stars with Valor devices.
He comes to the Pentagon from being Command Sergeant Major of Forces Command, which has more enlisted soldiers than any other Army organization. Sergeant Major Grinston was known there, and throughout his 30 years in uniform, as the upholder and enforcer of standards; rigorous always, ruthless when called for. As well it should be.
Alexandra Grinston, the Sergeant Major's wife, like so many other Army spouses, borne the load at home through long stretches, making it possible for soldiers to do their difficult and dangerous work on behalf of the nation.
We are blessed that the Grinstons are stepping up this last time -- as the guardian of Army standards, and guardians of the best interests of soldiers and their families.
Like all great teams, today the Army reloads its talent and continues the mission. So, at this point, I'll relinquish the stage to the people who you really want to hear from this morning -- the great Army leaders, incoming and outgoing, who have graced this nation with their dedicated service.