By Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff of the ArmySeptember 26, 2011
First, I want to thank you for the time you take to support our young people and our families. Obviously, Chuck [Deleot], thank you for what you do leading the organization all these years and for what you have done to bring help to those who need it. I'd also thank Joe Beck, Spike Smith, who are all due. Thank you so much. I truly, truly appreciate it.
Joe, I want to tell you it is good to see a Jersey boy making it. It is an honor to be sitting at the same table with you, sir. Thank you for your service.
A lot of people ask me, "Why did you stay in the Army for 35 years? Why do you want to continue to serve?" Well, you saw those young men and women [from the All American Chorus] who came in here to sing for us. That is why. It is because of them. It is because of what they do; because of their actions; because of what they represent; because of who they are; and because of the fact that they are willing to raise their right hand and say, "I want to be part of something greater than myself." That is why I want to serve. That is why I feel humbled at the opportunity to serve as Chief of Staff of the Army.
We have hundreds of thousands more just like the great Soldiers you saw in here tonight that are willing to do whatever it takes to keep our country secure and free. I am so proud to have the opportunity to work with them every day.
I want to take just a minute to reflect. As the young Specialist said, we just passed 9-11. I will tell you that for most of us sitting in this room, especially those in uniform, that event changed our lives forever. It is important that we reflect back on that. I also want to reflect on what the Army has done for the past decade. Then I want to talk a bit about my vision for the future of our Army.
Over this time, our Army has proven itself under what I would consider to be the most difficult environment this nation has ever faced. Our leaders at every level have displayed unparalleled ingenuity, flexibility and adaptability. Our Soldiers have displayed mental and physical toughness, but most importantly, courage under fire. They have transformed our Army into the most versatile, agile, rapidly deployable, sustainable, strategic land force in the world. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the support of our families, which is why what you do is so important.
But these accomplishments have come at an enormous cost: over 6,000 lives in Iraq and Afghanistan; over 40,000 wounded. Behind each one of these fallen and wounded Soldiers is a Family. The Patriot Foundation and other organizations play an incredible role in recognizing and honoring their service, their dedication, and their sacrifices. More importantly, you ensure that our nation maintains faith with them, and there is nothing more important than that - the relationship between the American Soldier and the American people. That faith is what drives them. That welcome home, shaking of their hands, thanking them for their service drives them to what they do. So thank you so much for what you do.
As we look to the future, we are reminded that our work is not done. We face a multitude of challenges as you look around the world today, such as transnational and regional terrorism in places like Yemen, Somalia, North Africa, and Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan. We have the uncertainty of the Arab Spring, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and we face the challenges of rising powers around the world. All this is underpinned by our own fiscal challenges and crises, not only here in the United States, but in Europe and other places.
This adds up to a time of uncertainty and change. The one thing I know is we can't predict the future. We are always surprised about what is ahead of us. So what do we have to do? We have to ensure we continue to provide trained and ready forces today and for what challenges we might have tomorrow. We will focus on the priorities that have endured over time. We must sustain our All-Volunteer Force. We must uphold standards, discipline and fitness. We must foster a continued commitment to the Profession of Arms and develop adaptable, thoughtful, strategic leaders. We will also demonstrate continued commitment to our Fallen and Wounded Warriors and their loved ones.
The Army will remain the Nation's Force of Decisive Action -- with the characteristics of versatility, depth, deployability, flexibility and much more. That will enable agile, adaptable formations, capable of accomplishing a wide range of missions when asked, and defeating hybrid threats around the world.
But above all, we must maintain trust: our trust with our Soldiers, our trust between Soldiers and leaders, our trust between Soldiers and our families, and the trust between the Army and the American public. That is the foundation of who we are. So once again, I want to thank you all for what you have done. I want to thank you for recognizing me this evening. Linda and I have spent some time in Fort Bragg - about six years of my career. It is a place that is very close to us as we come back, and I appreciate the hard work that you do bringing scholarships, funding childcare, and other things. I want to close by reminding you that 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 and God Bless all of you.