Secretary Panetta, Admiral Mullen, General Cartwright, members of the DoD and other departments, members of the foreign community and guests of General Cartwright, welcome. It is an honor to celebrate General Cartwright’s service today.
Among Marine aviators, Hoss has traced a singular path. That path began when Hoss left his home on a farm in Iowa to join the Marine Corps at the height of the Vietnam conflict. It continued to officer candidate school, to flight school, ultimately to command the First Marine Aircraft Wing. That of course was before Hoss believed all aircrafts should be unmanned. Finally, it culminated in assignments that brought him here to Washington and brought his vast intellect and experiences to bear on the whole force: as Director of J-8 on the Joint Staff, as commander of STRATCOM, and then finally as our eighth Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
I met Hoss nearly twenty years ago. He was then a Colonel. I was Director of Program Analysis and Evaluation. He was leading a study on deep attack weapons. It won’t surprise you to learn that the study was controversial. Based on the study’s recommendations, programs would stand or fall. Nor will it surprise you to learn that Hoss was unfazed by the controversy.
The key moment came when Hoss briefed the study to a group of senior defense thinkers, led by former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown. They were skeptical of the study’s conclusions. Hoss was not. After what was unquestionably a lively discussion, Secretary Brown, who also did not suffer fools, conceded, “I didn’t support this study going in, but we didn’t lay a glove on any of the arguments Colonel Cartwright made.”
Before the toughest of audiences, Hoss proved himself an independent thinker, not afraid to present the facts and let the analysis drive his conclusions. Then as now, he was determined to provide his best military advice.
From that day on, Hoss and I have developed a special bond.
It has culminated over the past two years when we have each been Deputies in our respective chains of command, working hard to ready the force for the future. And it was here that Hoss truly distinguished himself. His signature trait is to see around corners. He can spot trends, and think a decade ahead, better than just about anyone else. And his wisdom has served this Department well.
As Vice Chairman, he pushed each of the services to reevaluate how they employ force in our changed strategic environment. His contributions to this department are such that if there is a policy, or a strategy, issued in the past four years that embodies new thinking, Hoss’s fingerprints are all over it.
I am especially proud to have worked closely with Hoss on our first-ever cyber strategy. He intuitively grasped the need to conceive of cyber as an operational domain and to restructure our forces to operate within cyberspace. Cyber is an issue that is tailor-made for Hoss’s agile mind. He not only helped devise the conceptual framework for tackling the new threat. He also identified the organizational changes it called for and worked tirelessly to bring them about.
A theme emerges from Hoss’s service. Where others see obstacles, Hoss sees opportunities. Where others see controversy, Hoss sees a chance to persuade and educate.
Take the iPad he carries. This is not just any iPad. It is an iPad certified to carry classified information. That’s right – Hoss has an iPad that carries information that Steve Jobs is not allowed to see. Hoss has an iPad because someone made the mistake of telling him it could not be done—that we were not ready to employ the IT devices we use in our personal lives on the job. So Hoss rang up DARPA. And a few days later, Hoss had his classified iPad. He not only got the tool he wanted. He jolted the system, speeding the introduction of IT across the force.
The development of an IED-resistant vehicle was another time somebody made the mistake of telling Hoss it could not be done. Hoss and Secretary Gates personally overrode a cumbersome acquisition system to ensure MRAPS rolled onto the battlefield in record time and in record numbers, saving the lives of our warriors.
This fondness for big thoughts and action, and willingness to fight to make people consider them, is the highest form of devotion to those on the front lines. Our military always sends our warfighters into harm’s way with the best equipment and training. But we succeed because we understand how to use that equipment in a world that changes faster than our strategy and doctrine. And we build this understanding only by breaking down our existing thinking, and rebuilding it anew.
This unforgiving interrogation of the changing nature of war—and how our force must adapt to it—is Hoss’s ultimate legacy.
From the day he was commissioned as an officer, he has brought the strength of foresight. He has spoken with unprecedented candor. His contributions have reshaped our thinking and forces, in countless ways. And as Secretary Brown said 20 years ago, seldom does anyone lay a glove on his arguments.
Hoss, as we gather here this morning in this magnificent and iconic setting, the oldest post of the Corps, it is only fitting that this is where you will hang up your spurs. Since 1801, this parade field has honored the great legends of our Corps and leaders of our nation. Today you join the select ranks of the most distinguished Marines to ever wear the uniform. You have personified, over a 40 year career, the high ideals of Semper Fidelis. We are a greater nation because of your distinguished service.
You will be dearly missed.
As they say throughout our Naval Service, may you have “Fair winds and Following Seas.”