Scott Air Force Base
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thank you very much, and good afternoon.
My friend General Dick Myers, you are a superb leader and it is a privilege to work with you.
General Moseley, in your new role, we're delighted to see you. And Nordie Schwartz, congratulations to you, and General Kelly. Congressman Costello, a number of retired four star officers that are here, and distinguished state and local officials, we appreciate your being here, adjutant generals, and ladies and gentlemen.
Today we honor the service and accomplishments of our friend John Handy and certainly as we do so our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who have lost so much in Hurricane Katrina.
TRANSCOM has provided exceptional support to those in need: shipping vital rescue equipment to New Orleans within hours, helping to evacuate thousands of citizens, providing generators, fuel, medicine and literally millions of meals. Our country will continue to do all that we can and bring all we have to bear to help our fellow Americans.
John Handy, it's a tribute to your impact on our forces and on our country that so many distinguished guests are here, military and civilian, public officials, private citizens. But before I express my great respect and friendship for you, I do want to take a moment to personally thank Mickey. How long did you say it's been?
MRS. HANDY: Thirty-seven years.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Thirty-seven years, amazing. Think of the moves you've shared and the changes in life and the promotions and the elevations and the responsibilities that you've shared together. We thank you so much, Mickey, for your dedication and your service to the country, and certainly for the impact that you've had on service members and service families through these many years. You have certainly served our country and the American people, as has John. I thank you so much. We wish you the best.
A special thanks to all the men and women of TRANSCOM. Some of them are gathered here but what did you say, 154,000 or something? Think of that. They're not all here, but I know they're all here in their hearts.
The people of TRANSCOM have been working so hard and so effectively to get vital supplies to the units fighting extremists throughout the world, and to those in need along the Gulf Coast. They've done a truly amazing job, and I thank all of the men and women of TRANSCOM here and spread out across the globe. Thank you so much.
The transportation of war materials has been vital to our military since the founding of our country, to be sure. History reports that during the Revolutionary War there were problems with supplies and certainly in 1863 in the Civil War period there were problems as well.
One officer wrote, "The department of widest range in an Army is that of the quartermaster. Upon its promptness and efficiency the success of all military operations in a great measure depends. The duties committed to its officers are most important and requiring for their faithful discharge the utmost in energy and ability."
Few have better epitomized the sort of energy and ability than General John Handy. When he assumed command General Handy called TRANSCOM the lifeline of our military. He was of course right. He's managed this lifeline with exceptional skill during a critical period in our country's history.
Consider some of the amazing accomplishments in getting supplies to warfighters these past three years. TRANSCOM has moved nearly three million passengers and nearly seven million tons of cargo; delivered enough meals to feed everyone, all one million citizens of the St. Louis area, for over six weeks; they've provided vital relief supplies to victims of hurricanes here in the United States, an earthquake in Iran, and the tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
But many accomplishments have not been limited to the movement of materiel. Under General Handy's superb leadership TRANSCOM and the Air Mobility Command have fundamentally changed how they operate. TRANSCOM has given U.S. troops the means and the sustenance that they need to fight, the tools they need to train others, and the materiels and equipment they need to help nations build institutions of democracy rather than foster terrorism. This is a tribute to General Handy's leadership and to the skills of this great team that's been assembled at TRANSCOM.
I'm told that John was one of the very few in the Air Mobility Command to receive the Order of the Sword from non-commissioned officers, recognizing his exceptional leadership and service.
John, on behalf of the Commander in Chief, President Bush, and your fellow commanders and the American people, thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for your service to the many hundreds of thousands of service members that you've supplied, equipped and looked out for.
As General Schwartz assumes this command I'm confident that TRANSCOM and the Air Mobility Command under General Duncan McNabb will continue to perform with the same excellence in the years to come. General McNabb and General Schwartz will make a formidable team.
We wish you both well in your new responsibilities. You'll be following in the footsteps of a truly outstanding leader who deserves our thanks, our praise, and our full appreciation for his truly distinguished service to our great nation. Mickey, John -- thank you.