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Welcoming Ceremony for Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz (Washington, D.C.)
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, August 12, 2008

     Thank you all for coming this morning. I want to extend a special welcome to the friends and family of General Schwartz, particularly his wife Suzie.
     It is a pleasure to honor General Norty Schwartz as he takes over as chief of staff of the United States Air Force. He fills the shoes of a dedicated airman, General Buzz Moseley, who gave decades of courageous and devoted service to his country.
     First let me note something that General Schwartz and I have in common. He, too, was planning to retire – until, as one news account put it, the Secretary of Defense “upended those intentions” by recommending that the President nominate him to this job. I had really thought I had put Washington in the rear view mirror 15 years ago, but things changed 20 months ago and here I am. Just goes to show you that I’m capable of doing unto others what was done unto me. What it really shows, though, is how blessed America is, and the Air Force is, to have someone of General Schwartz’s intelligence, character, and experience taking the helm of the Air Force at this pivotal time.
     General Schwartz’s achievements over the course of his 35 years in uniform – including extensive flying and command experience in lift and special operations – have prepared him well to lead the Air Force through this crucial phase in the war on terror, And as it modernizes to meet future threats.
     As commander of Transcom, General Schwartz led an organization that moves America’s military might around the globe on land, in the sea, and in the air. As the general himself has remarked, “It’s hard to jazz it up, but it’s like blocking and tackling, [and] . . . teams don’t score many touchdowns without a few blocks and tackles.” These tasks may be unheralded, but without them the war effort would simply grind to a halt. And Norty Schwartz has done wonders to keep this vastly complex system running smoothly.
     He comes into this position at a challenging time. He has said his goal is to recommit the Air Force to the high standards of excellence that have always been its hallmark. I have no doubt he will give his all in that cause. He is one who has lived the core values of airmen: integrity first; service before self; and excellence in all we do.
     Indeed it is remarkable to take stock of where the Air Force stands as it enters its seventh decade. The picture you see is one of utter dominance. The last time a U.S. ground force was attacked from the sky was more than half a century ago. The last Air Force jet lost to aerial combat was in Vietnam. It is not the easiest thing in the world when an organization accustomed to that kind of success comes to a turning point in its history, but that is where the Air Force is. In addition to seeing the current conflicts through to success, General Schwartz has the experience and expertise to prepare the service for challenges on and beyond the horizon:
     • Modernizing the aging fighter and tanker fleets;
     • Restoring trust in the Air Force’s stewardship of the most sensitive part of our arsenal – nuclear weapons and nuclear-related materiel;
     • Protecting the global commons of the 21st century – space and cyberspace – and, finally,
     • Making the most effective use of air power in counterinsurgency operations while maintaining strategic deterrence and technological superiority as a hedge against rising powers.
     Airmen led by General Schwartz, are going after these tasks with zeal and, in so doing, will write new chapters of greatness for the Air Force. Norty, your leadership qualities make you the right man at the right time for this demanding job. I thank you for taking it on; I have every confidence you will do it well.