Good morning, and welcome. The distinguished group assembled tells the story of the affection and the esteem in which we all hold General Hugh Shelton -- a soldier, a leader, and a great American. And while I cannot acknowledge each of you who are here by name, I would like to recognize a few: Secretary [of State] Colin Powell, Secretary [of Veterans’ Affairs] Tony Principi, [CIA] Director George Tenet, Senator Helms, Senator Edwards, members of Congress, Deputy Secretary [of Defense] Paul Wolfowitz, and former Deputy Secretary [of Defense] Rudy de Leon; General Shelton, Carolyn [Shelton], the entire Shelton family; the brand new Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dick Myers, sworn-in this morning, along with General Pete Pace as Vice Chairman; the Joint Chiefs; the secretaries of the Armed Services; combatant commanders, past and present; senior enlisted advisors; command sergeants major; leaders from the Department; distinguished guests from all across the globe; and especially the men and women of the armed forces.
Two weeks ago, President Bush had a message for America's armed forces. He said, very simply, "Be ready. The hour is coming when America will act and you will make us proud."
America's armed forces are ready, and we're ready in no small part because Hugh Shelton has made readiness his first priority.
We're ready because he never forgot the troops, championing better housing and helping to achieve the largest pay raise in 18 years. Not surprisingly, these efforts not only boosted readiness, but also recruitment and retention in each of the services.
But General Shelton looked to the future as well, working for efforts to enhance protection for U.S. information networks, and to increase the interoperability of our forces. He helped to prepare the force and guided us with a leadership from which we will continue to benefit long after Hugh Shelton has left the Pentagon.
His four years as chairman of the Joint Chiefs were the culmination of a long and distinguished career that included some of the most demanding missions and commands. He led the Special Operations Command, that elite corps of Army, Air Force and Navy Special Forces established to respond to terrorism and other acts of the type we've come to know in recent days; two tours in Vietnam, first with Special Forces, and later with the 173rd Airborne. He led the 82nd Airborne, and spent some seven months in Saudi Arabia with the 101st [Airborne] during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He commanded the Joint Task Force the concluded Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti.
As the senior military adviser to the president, and the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council, Hugh Shelton has served with distinction. Yet even while participating at the very highest levels, he never lost touch with the brave men and women who stand sentry on the frontiers of freedom every day.
Hugh Shelton has been a valued partner. Together we have focused on creating a new military strategy for the United States, a strategy that assumes we may not know the direction of future threats, but we will have a sense of their capabilities; a strategy that establishes the principle that surprise must be a critical factor in considering the future.
We've thought through, with the chiefs and the CINCs [combatant commanders in chief] and the senior leadership of the Department, how to size and equip a 21st century military force, asking what's the right balance among our capabilities, the proper distribution of our forces around the globe, and the best way to organize those forces for the future.
Through these many months, I've come to know Hugh Shelton as a tough, thoughtful leader, willing to consider something new, and certainly never shy about offering his views. Much of our effort has been to transform our forces to meet the challenges of the future. As of September 11th, the future was thrust upon us, and throughout it all, General Shelton's focus has remained to win our nation's wars, and this we shall.
One other thing that has remained fixed and determined is Carolyn, who has shared his life's mission through all its many moves, evolutions, changes and promotions, always upward. And so, as we honor General Hugh Shelton, we also thank you, Carolyn, for your very special dedication and service to our country. It has been full, generous, and deeply appreciated by the many lives that you have touched with your warm, gracious and caring manner.
The first chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Omar Bradley, once reflected that we are given one life, and the decision is ours whether to wait or whether to act, and in acting, to live. In walking under the arches of the Pentagon's Bradley Corridor for the last time as our nation's 14th chairman, General Shelton leaves behind a force that reflects many of his personal qualities. It is a force that stands tall, quietly self-assured, and ready to respond with strength and clarity to the many new missions that will be asked of it.
Hugh, our best wishes to you and Carolyn. Joyce [Rumsfeld] and I will miss you both. On behalf of those assembled here, and the men and women of the armed forces all across the globe, we thank you for your outstanding and, indeed, courageous service to America. Thank you, sir.