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Leadership a Team Effort, Secretary Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took the ceremonial oath of office today in a Pentagon ceremony presided over by Vice President Joe Biden.

“Throughout your life you’ve led,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said of Hagel. “Today you will continue to lead in this very important task.”

From his enlistment in the Army in 1967, to his time in the Senate, and now today’s ceremonial oath, the oath of office has signaled critical periods throughout Hagel’s professional life, Biden said.

“Whenever you went into a battle zone with Chuck,” the vice president said, “everyone else would sit and listen to the combatant commanders. You’d look around to see where Chuck was and he was literally outside, talking to the noncommissioned officers … So it should scare the hell out of you generals to have a noncommissioned officer [as defense secretary].”

“We’ve all known an awful lot of senators and congresspersons,” Biden said, “but I’ve never met one with more integrity than Chuck Hagel, and I think that is the single greatest ingredient a man or woman can bring to this job.”

When the president asks Hagel’s views on a critical issue, Biden said, he knows he’ll get his unvarnished opinion.

Speaking to a full house at the Pentagon auditorium, the 24th secretary of defense said he felt blessed by the support of his friends, family and colleagues. “Regardless of how high anyone ever rotates in [their] profession, your faith, your family and your friends are always in the end what matters most,” he said.

“You’re always judged by who you associate with,” Hagel said, adding no association is more important or noble than the one he now has -- with the men and women who unselfishly serve the United States.

“The president has given me a tremendous opportunity,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud than to be in this position today,” the secretary added, “and I would commit to you that I will always do what I think is best for our men and women in uniform and their families.”

“Leadership is a team business,” Hagel said. “It’s going to take a team effort in this country today to help self-correct where we are and where we have come from and what this country has been through the last few years.”

The world is changing at an unprecedented rate, the secretary said, presenting abundant challenges, but also abundant possibility. The essence of a successful generation is how they respond to challenge, he said. “The great generations have always responded in great ways,” he continued.

“Not many people ever have an opportunity to shape and define the world and shape and define the future,” the secretary said. “We all have that opportunity now.”

The trials lying ahead of the department are unlikely to go away quickly, Hagel said, but its people should not get bogged down in short-term thinking. “When we step back and think … it’s about things that are so much bigger than all of us,” he said.

Militaries have long been forced to adapt to the realities of their time and the dynamics and threats of those times, Hagel said. “Those that did not were defeated, or they declined, or they just disappeared,” he continued. “The future of our country in a defining world order is at play right now.”

Alliances and relationships are essential to the survival of mankind, the secretary said. “I don’t know if there’s ever been a time in the history of man when it also represents so many possibilities and so much potential to do so much good in so many different ways if we’re just wise enough to use the resources that we have to build relationships … That’s where we start.”

“Together we will make this a better world and we’ll make a better world for all mankind,” Hagel said.

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Chuck Hagel
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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