FORT MYER, Va. (Army News Service, July 20, 2009) -- Secretary of the Army Pete Geren was given a farewell review July 17, by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. at Fort Myer's Conmy Hall.

Geren will actually continue to serve as secretary until the new appointee is confirmed and reports for duty, according to his office. Congressman John M. McHugh of New York has been nominated for the position.

Before becoming secretary, Geren served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Texas' 12th Congressional District from 1989 to 1997, and came to work at the Pentagon to serve as a special assistant to the secretary of Defense in 2001.

He was appointed acting secretary of the Air Force in 2005 by former President George W. Bush, a position in which he served until November of that year. He assumed the post of undersecretary of the Army in February 2006, and became the 20th secretary of the Army March 9, 2007.

The farewell began with a pre-ceremony concert by the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," followed by the march on of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, the Old Guard's Delta, Hotel and Honor Guard Companies, the Continental Color Guard, the Commander in Chief's Guard and the Fife and Drum Corps.

Col. David P. Anders, regimental commander of the Old Guard, led Geren on his final inspection of the troops, as they made a quick lap, with Anders saluting and Geren placing his right hand over his heart as they passed the colors at the center of the formation.

Then Geren and his wife Beckie were called to the floor, where they were given several awards. Geren was awarded the Bronze Palm, U.S. Army Leadership Award and the Outstanding Civil Service Award from Gates. Beckie Geren was given the Commander's Award for Public Service, as well as a bouquet of flowers from the men and women of the United States Army. His three daughters Tracy, Annie and Mary were also given bouquets.

Casey took the podium first, and he praised Geren for his emphasis on so many programs designed to improve the quality of life for Soldiers, including warrior care improvements, suicide prevention programs and sexual harassment education.

"We in the military pride ourselves on being quiet professionals, doing the right thing, and doing it well ... because it is the right thing to do. And there is no better way to describe Pete Geren," Casey said. "Pete made a huge impact on our Soldiers, families and civilians ... [which] was underpinned by his genuine belief that our people are the strength of the Army."

"Pete Geren grabbed a hold of tough issues and wouldn't let them go until he was satisfied that everything that possibly could be done was done," Casey said. And Pete, we're a better Army for it. Soldiers and their families will be better served in the decades to come, because of what you've done."

Gates, who served as president of Texas A &M University, a rival of Geren's alma mater, the University of Texas, jokingly chastised Geren's choice to study at Texas, calling it "a serious lapse in judgment" early in life.

Gates called Geren's departure a bittersweet farewell, as it marked the end of a career dedicated to serving the American public.

"He leaves having strengthened the core institution that has borne the brunt of America's wars," Gates said.

When Geren spoke, he reflected back on some of his memories as secretary of the Army, his voice quavering slightly as he talked of Spc. Ross A. McGinnis, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for throwing himself on a grenade while serving in Iraq.

"It has been a privilege of a lifetime to work for all of the Ross's ... of our United States Army and our Army family," Geren said.

A standing ovation followed Geren as he left the podium. The ceremony concluded with the traditional pass-in-review, as each unit passed by and saluted the Geren Family, Gates and Casey as they passed by.

The ceremony concluded with the playing of the Army song, and then the more than 100 friends and family members of the Gerens filed out of Conmy Hall.

(Alex McVeigh writes for the Pentagram newspaper at Fort Myer, Va.)