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Lieutenant General Craig McKinley Promotion Ceremony (Washington, D.C.)
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, D.C., Monday, November 17, 2008

     Thank you, Mike.
     This elevation of the Chief of the National Guard bureau to four stars underscores the critical importance of the Guard to America’s overall national defense as Mike has just described. It also signifies the vital role the chief has in bridging the state and federal components of our government and the active and Reserve components of our military.
     The promotion of General Craig McKinley to this rank, to serve in this post, is recognition of his outstanding leadership abilities, and shows the confidence the President and I have in him to be the nation’s senior Guard officer at such a critical time.
     General McKinley has held command positions at every level of the Air Force during his 34 years of military service. As director of the Air National Guard – a vast and complex organization – he has been responsible for overseeing all policies, plans, and programs affecting more than 104,000 Guard members in more than 88 flying units and 200 geographically separated units throughout the United States and its territories. The Air Guard conducts the overwhelming majority of the intercept, refueling, and command-and-control missions needed to protect the skies of the United States.
     During his tenure, General McKinley helped lead the organization through the aftermath of major BRAC and budget changes. He worked to build trust and confidence between the Air Guard and the Adjutants General, and fostered closer ties and coordination with the Air Force staff. And this year the Air National Guard achieved its recruiting goal of more than 106,000, meeting its end strength goal for the first time in more than six years.
     General McKinley will oversee a National Guard force that has, as I mentioned earlier, been deployed and battle-tested in ways we have not seen for decades. Since 9/11, more than 660,000 men and women have been mobilized – the first extended mobilization of both the Guard and the Reserve since the establishment of the all-volunteer force. And the Guard is deployed not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but in Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sinai, the Horn of Africa, and Guantanamo – some 40 places around the world. At the same time, the Guard is conducting defense operations on the home front, supporting the security requirements of the states, responding to catastrophes and disasters, securing airports, providing border security, fighting fires, and staging search-and-rescue and counternarcotics missions. These achievements and this service have not come without cost in hardship and heartbreak. More than 560 Guard members have made the ultimate sacrifice over the past seven years.
     To General McKinley: congratulations on this historic achievement. To Cheryl, Christina and Patrick: thank you for your support that has made this day possible. And to all the men and women of the Guard: you have the respect and appreciation of all Americans for everything you do to protect our country.
     Thank you.