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Southern Command’s Troops, Leaders Praise Outgoing Chairman

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

MIAMI, Sept. 14, 2007 – About 1,200 troops, family members and civilian employees of U.S. Southern Command came out here today here to bid farewell to their former commander.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Members of U.S. Southern Command bid farewell to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace at the command headquarters in Miami, Fla., Sept. 14, 2007. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mitch Miller

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

From the top to the bottom of the chain of command, the troops praised Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who retires at the end of the month.

Pace spent a year as the head of Southern Command, leaving in 2001 to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Four years later, he became the first Marine to serve as chairman. He chose to visit his former command here as a “bookend” to his 40-year military career before turning over the chairmanship Oct. 1 to Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, now the chief of naval operations.

Navy Adm. James Stavridis, Southern Command’s current leader, introduced the chairman saying, “No one has had more impact on the military of the United States in this new 21st century than Pete Pace.”

As is his custom, Pace stepped off the podium to be eye-to-eye with the troops. Thanking the admiral for the “incredible” introduction, Pace joked that “if I had more time on active duty I’d try to live up to it.”

Pace stressed the importance of Southern Command’s mission, praising the command’s efforts to reach out and partner with countries in the region. “What you do from here is vital to the health of your nation and I want to thank you for that,” he said.

He also thanked the troops’ family members and reminded servicemembers to do the same and often. “Our families serve this nation as well as anyone who has ever worn the uniform,” he said, “and we owe them a great debt of gratitude because they are the hidden strength of our services.”

Southern Command’s role will be even more important in the future, Pace noted. “We show who we are when there are natural disasters and this command responds with helicopters, ships, supplies and whatever it takes,” he said.

“As democracy in this region ebbs and flows, the constant of the U.S. military interaction – being ready to help, reaching out when we can – will continue to have the impact it has over time,” he said.

As Pace shook hands with members of the SOUTHCOM community, the current commander and others talked with American Forces Press Service about the chairman’s legacy for the command and the military.

Stavridis noted that in 2000, Pace helped put together “Plan Colombia,” which “helped bring Colombia from being on the verge of a failed state to a highly successful anchor for democracy in South America today.

“Yesterday, the Colombian military turned out an enormous parade to honor our chairman, our former commander,” Stavridis continued. “The speeches that were made about him by the Colombian military were extraordinary. They personified things we’re all trying to do here at SOUTHCOM to reach out to this region, to make it a better place, to be part of what is positive about the Americas.”

The admiral also paid high tribute to the chairman as a military leader and role model.

“The thing that is absolutely unquestioned about Pete Pace is his honesty, integrity and his constant ability to speak truth to power,” Stavridis said. “In that regard he is a role model for every officer and every enlisted person who wears a uniform as well as every civilian in the Department of Defense. He is an idol to us all.”

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Balch, who’s been on active duty for 32 years, noted that Pace has a great understanding of the importance of every servicemember.

“When you grow up in the environment that General Pace grew up in, a platoon in Vietnam,” Balch said, “you rely on your buddy on your left and your right to have your back. You rely on that young private first class to take on his role in combat and in peace to do what he needs to do. That’s what’s so great about our institution -- they’re there, and they’re ready to do that.”

“It’s wonderful that the chairman has a great appreciation for people,” Balch continued. “He’s standing here in SOUTHCOM today shaking hands with the entire combatant command of over 1,200 people one at a time. It just shows you how much of a people person our chairman is. We’re really going to miss his connection with all of the people in our force.”

Marine Sgt. Robert Boyd, who’s been on active duty for eight years, said when it comes to leadership there’s no comparison to the first Marine to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“That’s someone you want to strive to be like,” Boyd said. “When you’re wondering why you’re still at work at 9 or 10 at night, and you look up there at the Pentagon and you see him – I wouldn’t want to be like anyone else.

“At the end of the day, he’s a Marine,” Boyd stressed. “He’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and say, ‘Hey, if we have to go to Iraq, we have to go to Iraq.’ He’s a motivator. He’s the prime example of a leader. Outside of being chairman, outside of being in the news all the time, I know if we’re out there in a fighting hole together, he’d be the one I’d want to lead me.”

Contact Author

Gen. Peter Pace, USMC
Adm. James Stavridis, USN

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