Gates Salutes Fallon for 'Unparalleled' Energy
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 18, 2008
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates praised Navy Adm. William J. Fallon during his retirement ceremony today for bringing “unparalleled energy, ideas and diplomatic skill” to U.S. Central Command and for 41 years of service that has left the United States stronger and safer.
Adm. William J. Fallon kisses his daughter Christi at the end of his retirement ceremony onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt at Norfolk Naval Station, Va., April 18, 2008. Fallon ended a 41-year naval career that started as an aviator during the Vietnam War and concluded with him overseeing a two-front war as commander of U.S. Central Command. Defense Dept. photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Fallon, who assumed command of CentCom in March 2007, concluded his career under brilliant blue skies at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The setting held special significance for Fallon, who commanded a carrier air wing aboard the Roosevelt during the Gulf War, and commanded the Theodore Roosevelt battle group in 1995 as it supported NATO operations in Bosnia.
Gates said he knew he was getting one of the military’s most experienced senior officers and one of its best strategic minds when he recruited Fallon from U.S. Pacific Command to focus on one of the world’s most complex regions in CentCom.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Fallon’s steadiness as “a guy who can rely on to stay calm and collected when all around you, people are losing their heads” brought strength to those who served with and under him in both war and peace.
“You can count on him when minutes and seconds count,” Mullen said.
Mullen pointed to Fallon’s leadership strengths: dependability, honesty, steadfastness and sincerity. Fallon was someone people trusted, he said, who “makes decisions and stands by them the way he stands by his people.”
Gates said there’s no doubt that this blend of professional experience and personal strength brought special capability to CentCom. “There can be no doubt how much we have benefited from his leadership at Central Command during the last year,” he said.
The secretary cited progress on several fronts. “We are all familiar with the tremendous progress that has been made in Iraq,’ he said, calling Fallon “a valued voice” in ensuring those gains aren’t lost. “He has advised the president and me, and I can tell you that his suggestions, his thoughts, his candor have been valued and critical in determining the way forward,” Gates said.
Afghanistan, too, has seen successes in the last year during Fallon’s command, the secretary said. “Our military is working more closely with our partners than at any time in the past,” he said. “The Taliban has been rolled back. We are applying a coordinated and ever-more-effective strategy that focuses on the non-military aspects of the fight.”
But beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, Gates said the Middle East as a whole has benefitted from Fallon’s leadership.”He has applied the same strategic thinking and diplomatic skills in the Middle East that he did in the Pacific,” he said.
Gates noted that Fallon was the highest-ranking officer and in more than a decade and the first Centcom commander to visit Lebanon. “We can see the results in the increasing willingness of nations of the region to extend diplomatic support to Iraq, and to work together to confront shared threats through initiatives like the Gulf Security Dialogue.”
Beyond his service within CentCom, Fallon’s four decades of service have “advanced America’s interests and helped defend our nation and our liberty,” he said.
The secretary thanked Fallon for his inspiration and example. “Those who had the opportunity to work under you and with you will now carry forward in their critical work with your example firmly in their minds,” he said.
Fallon said he’s grateful to have had the opportunity to “get something done and make a difference in this world.” He said he’s “very confident in the future” and inspired by the quality and dedication of the men and women serving the country in uniform.
Gates thanked Fallon’s family, especially his wife Mary, for their service and wished them fair winds and following seas as they begin their next life journey. “I, and many others, will truly miss you,” he said.
Fallon succeeded Army Gen. John Abizaid as CentCom commander on March 16, 2007. The admiral resigned from the position last month after a magazine article implied that he opposed some U.S. policies in the Middle East. Gates downplayed differences between Fallon’s and the administration’s policies, and told reporters he had accepted Fallon’s resignation “with reluctance and regret.”
Army Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey became acting CentCom chief during a March 28 relinquishment-of-command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.