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Chairman Reflects on Military Service

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

DJIBOUTI, Aug. 14, 2007 – In a town hall meeting here today, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the military’s senior general, spoke about how proud he has been to look out for the welfare of lower-ranking servicemembers during his 40-year career.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace conducts a town hall meeting with approximately 1,200 troops in the "Thunder Dome" at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, Aug. 14, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Pace is retiring Oct. 1. He has been chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 2005, and was vice chairman for four years before that.

“I talk frequently on the impact of decisions on ‘Pfc. Pace,’” he said. “It’s my way of making sure that those of us on the high-end of the rank structure don’t forget that each decision we make has an impact on a (private first class) or a senior airman or petty officer.”

Pace said he is proud that civilian leaders in the Pentagon now talk about the impact of decisions on young enlisted members and officers.

“I’m happy that the dialogue includes a clear understanding that there are real people involved here and that when you say to do something in Washington, it has very specific impacts on the ‘Pfc. Paces’ of the world who have to make that decision work,” he said.

During a question-and-answer session, a young airman asked the general if he ever thought he would reach the heights to which his career has taken him. Pace responded that he always planned to serve as long as he was needed.

Pace first entered combat in Vietnam during the Battle of Hue City in 1968 as a platoon leader in Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. He was the third platoon leader in as many weeks. Only three Marines in his company of 156 did not get wounded in Hue. “I was one of them,” he said.

In one incident, a staff sergeant walked in front of him when a sniper fired. “The (round) caught him in the side rather than me in the chest,” the general said. “I walked through a minefield one day when I didn’t know I was in a minefield.

“I had no idea how I had gone through 13 months in combat as a platoon leader without getting scratched and, more importantly, I lost some wonderful Marines who died following Second Lieutenant Pace’s orders in combat,” he continued.

He said that when he came back from Vietnam he made a promise to himself.

“For me, (service in the military) has been about trying to repay those who died following my orders,” he said. “In the process, I have never thought about the next promotion, because I’ve always felt I would serve the nation until I was no longer needed. And I would know that when I stopped getting promoted. Whenever that happened would be just fine.”

The general said the idea worked “pretty well” for 40 years.

“Now I am going home,” he said referring to his retirement in October. “I am not a volunteer to go home, nor am I dragging my feet. I am sitting here saying the same thing I have said for 40 years: I love this nation, I love each and every one of you who wear the uniform, I would serve until I die if they would let me.

“But I am also very comfortable that I have fulfilled the mission that I set for myself 40 years ago. And those great young Marines who will be forever young with their names on the Vietnam Wall and those who died with us in Somalia and those who died in this conflict, I hope I have served the way I meant to serve, and that is to remember the impact on ‘Pfc. Pace’ and not care about whether General Pace gets promoted.”

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Biographies:
Gen. Peter Pace, USMC

Related Sites:
U.S. Africa Command
Photo Essay: Pace in Djibouti



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