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Remarks by Admiral Timothy J. Keating At A Change Of Command Ceremony, At Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Presenter: Admiral Timothy J. Keating
March 23, 2007
            ADM. KEATING: (Applause.) Thank you, Chris. 
 
            As Wandalee and I were doing a little pacing this morning, she said, at about 7:30 or 7:45, "Well, so what are you going to talk about?" And I said, "I can't wait to hear what I have to say." (Laughter.)
 
            A few thank-yous are necessary. Ken and Kim Birksen from Blanchard, Oklahoma, thanks for coming. Thanks for letting us borrow your sister for all these years, Kenny. Rick Finlay, Joe Inge, Paul Sullivan -- your counsel and your friendship have been invaluable. Thank you. Susan Whirling -- I'm not where you are, Susan. We could not have done it without you. God bless you.
 
            To deviate a little bit from the script, Sergeant Major Frye, are you somewhere? Would you please step smartly forward, Shipmate? Smartly! (Laughs; laughter.) Ladies and gentlemen, a man who has been our senior enlisted advisor and much more. Face them, Sergeant Major, please. (Applause.) Sergeant Major Frye retires in a couple of weeks after 32 years, 32 years of service to his corps, our commands, and our country. Thank you, Shipmate, and God bless. Thanks for coming to work. (Applause.)
 
            And Wandalee for your love and support and occasional guidance -- (laughter) -- thank you very much. I love you.
 
            When Wandalee and I were in Washington two and a half years ago and we heard that we were coming to Colorado Springs for the privilege of assuming command of North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command, I was on the Joint Staff, and I would be coursing around the building, and total strangers would come up and say, "Are you Tim Keating?"
 
            "Yes, sir. Yes, ma'am. I am."
 
            "You are going to Colorado Springs, you lucky man you."
 
            And so Wandalee and I, we came with high expectations. Mr. Mayor, I would like to be on record as telling you that our expectations have been exceeded by a wide margin. You and all of your friends and your fellow citizens here in Colorado Springs and the Front Range provide support that is unexceeded anywhere in the world for men and women in uniform. We are immensely grateful to you, sir, and your citizens. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
 
            Again, while still in Washington, and as a member of the Joint Staff -- and all of us Joint Staff folks think we have our fingers on the pulse of everything that is going on throughout the entire Department of Defense -- I thought I had a reasonable idea what it would be like to work at NORAD and at NORTHCOM. And as I said a minute ago, the metaphor applies: I missed the mark by a wide margin. 
 
            The complexity of the mission, the challenge for each and every one of the men and women who come to work here every day, is massive. It is significant. It is real. There are most assuredly folks out there this very minute who are rapacious, who are relentless. They're flexible, they're adaptive, they're persuasive, and they mean to take from us the freedoms that we hold dear. Someone has got to stand up and say, in General Pete Pace's words, not on our watch. 
 
            That is what the men and women at the United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command are all about. It is a sacred mission to us -- and I don't overstate that -- to defend our homeland. There can be no higher calling, no more important mission.
 
            So all of you with whom we have worked shoulder to shoulder in Canada, here in the United States and to an increasing degree in Mexico, to all of you who have borne that burden graciously, gracefully and effectively, please do not think your efforts are taken for granted.
 
            I have had the frequent privilege -- here's the term again -- of basking in the glow of reflected glory when I go back and meet with folks like President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld and now Secretary Gates and across the great countries I represent, and they tell me to my face, "Thank you for allowing me to enjoy the liberties that I hold so dear and that are so important for my families." It is my distinct honor and privilege to pass those thanks on to you.
 
            Each of you are passionate about your mission. That is contagious, it spreads, and that makes the job for those who threaten us harder and harder and harder. That's just fine. We want to make it impossible.
 
            So Gene and Jill Renuart are welcomed into the community. I recommend to them embracing the mission as each of you do in uniform and those of you civilians who are with us. Know that when Wandalee and I go about our affairs for the rest of our lives, we will hold dear the memory of working alongside each and every one of you. It has been our great privilege and great pleasure.
 
            God bless you, and may God hold you in the palm of your hand -- His hand now and always.
 
            Thanks so much. (Applause.)
 
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