Pace Thanks Enlisted Force for Service, Sacrifices
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 20, 2007 The success that Marine Gen. Peter Pace has had in a 40-year military career has been based “on my listening to the incredible enlisted leaders who have been my partners,” the soon-to-retire chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today at the Pentagon. (Video)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace thanks enlisted troops for their service and bids them farewell at the Pentagon, Sept. 20, 2007. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Pace thanked the enlisted force for their service. The Pentagon Channel broadcast the 20-minute talk to stations around the world.
In his talk, the chairman thanked the enlisted force for their support and spoke about the influence that enlisted personnel have had on him.
Most of the military is enlisted. In the chairman’s own service, 49 percent of the personnel are lance corporals or below.
“General officers may very well plan battles, but it’s lance corporals and sergeants, second and first lieutenants, and captains who make the difference on the battlefield by carrying out the intent of the order when faced with a thinking enemy,” Pace said.
The chairman listed the names of those Marines killed while following his orders as a platoon leader in 1968. “Lance Corporal (Guido) Farinaro, Lance Corporal Chubby Hale, Lance Corporal Whitey Travers, Corporal Mike Witt, Staff Sergeant Freddy Williams, Lance Corporal Little Joe Arnold, Corporal John Miller -- all Marines who followed 2nd Lieutenant Pete Pace in combat and in following my orders died for our country,” he said.
Pace arrived in Vietnam at the height of the Tet Offensive and fought in the battle of Hue City. His platoon -- normally around 50 Marines -- had just 14 when he arrived. He was the third platoon leader in as many weeks.
Pace went through 13 months in Vietnam without a scratch. “There was never a doubt in my mind what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life when I came out of Vietnam … and that was to try as best I could to serve this nation on active duty in a way that would pay proper respect to those Marines who followed me as their platoon leader and gave their lives for their country,” he said. “(These were) enlisted Marines who taught me what love on the battlefield is all about.”
Pace told the crowd of about 1,000 enlisted personnel in the Pentagon courtyard that he had vowed to give to the personnel under his command what he could no longer give to the Marines who died. “And an interesting thing happened along the way,” he said. “Looking back on it, I was trying to do the right thing as a leader for my folks -- in my case, Marines -- and in doing so, they gave back to me more than I ever could have asked.
“I find myself at the end of 40-plus years of service hopelessly behind in trying to give back,” he continued. “Because the more I have tried to give, the more that has been given to me. It’s been an incredible cycle that makes me feel humble to have had the opportunity to associate myself with so many wonderful Americans.”
At each step of his career, Pace had an enlisted advisor whispering in his ear about what he was doing right and what he was doing wrong. In 1968, Sgt. Reed B. Zachary was his platoon sergeant. “He helped me understand not only what I needed to know about the battlefield, but what I needed to know and understand about each of the Marines in our platoon in a way that helped me be a more effective leader,” Pace said.
This continued when he was a company commander and up through the ranks to chairman. Pace said he could not imagine doing the job of chairman without a strong right arm. He chose Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey to be the first senior enlisted advisor to the chairman.
Pace will step down as chairman Oct. 1. “As I leave the active ranks, I’m sad,” he said. “I’m not sad because I’m not going to be chairman any more; … I’m sad because I won’t be able to put the uniform on and on occasion get out on the battlefield and hug my fellow servicemembers, tell them I love them and thank them for what they are doing for their country.”
Pace visited Afghanistan on Sept. 2 and spoke to troops at isolated bases all over the country. He thanked them for their service and spoke about how he was going to miss military life.
“At the end, the troops are coming by to let me say thanks to them, and one Army sergeant … said to me: ‘Sir, thanks for your service; we’ll take it from here,’” the chairman said. “That is exactly right. For that sergeant to look the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the eye and say, ‘It’s OK; we’ve got it,’ I think is pretty cool. But it also puts an exclamation point on why my sadness is not about the institution, but it’s selfishly about me in my wanting time to serve alongside you.”
Pace started with 2nd Platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, in Vietnam in 1968. On Sept. 4, the chairman visited his old outfit in Iraq’s Anbar province. “I was able to sit with those Marines in Karmah, Iraq, and see their eyes and see their enthusiasm for what they were doing,” he said.
“To me, it was a perfect bookend from where I started to where I’m ending,” he said. “And I hope in some small way in my opportunity to talk to them and in my opportunity to speak with you this morning that I can communicate to you what an incredible honor it has been to serve alongside of you and how thankful I am to all of you for what you do and how proud I am for what you have accomplished and what you will continue to accomplish.”