Schwartz Takes Reins of U.S. Transportation Command
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Sep. 8, 2005 Transportation of war materials has been vital to military services throughout U.S. history, a fact proved every day the United States fights the war on terror and recovers from a natural disaster, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said here Sept. 7 during a change-of-command ceremony for U.S. Transportation Command.
Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz assumes command of U.S. Transportation Command and hands off the flag to Air Mobility Command Command Chief Master Sgt. Michael Kerver during TRANSCOM change of command ceremony Sept. 7 at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers looks on. Photo by Airman 1st Class Jeff Andrejcik, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz accepted command of the joint-service force that provides land, sea and air transportation for the Defense Department and manages military logistics from factory to foxhole.
Schwartz succeeds Air Force Gen. John W. Handy, who had commanded TRANSCOM since October 2001 and retired after 39 years of service.
Rumsfeld praised Handy's tenure as commander of TRANSCOM and of its air component, Air Mobility Command. Handy took the commands' reins shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. He steps down as military transportation assets keep the war on terror moving ahead while simultaneously providing humanitarian relief to the Gulf Coast region ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
"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," the secretary said.
"When he assumed command, General Handy called TRANSCOM the lifeline of our military," Rumsfeld said. "He was, of course, right. He managed this lifeline with exceptional skill during a critical period in our country's history."
In the past three years, the secretary noted, TRANSCOM has moved nearly 3 million passengers and nearly 7 million tons of cargo, as well as enough meals to feed all 1 million citizens of the St. Louis metropolitan area for six weeks. The command has provided relief supplies to hurricane victims in the United States, earthquake victims in Iran, and the millions affected by the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
"TRANSCOM has given U.S. troops the means and the sustenance they need to fight, the tools they need to train others, and the materiel and equipment they need to help nations build institutions of democracy rather than foster terrorism," Rumsfeld said. "This is a tribute to General Handy's leadership and the skills of this great team that's been assembled at TRANSCOM."
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took the TRANSCOM flag from Handy and passed it to Schwartz to formalize the change in leadership.
Addressing the joint-service formation of TRANSCOM personnel standing in nearly 90-degree heat, Myers echoed Rumsfeld's assessment of their performance.
"As Secretary Rumsfeld said, you are absolutely amazing, and absolutely indispensable in this very critical time in our history and our way of life," he said. "This struggle that we are engaged in depends on you. It depends on you to deploy, supply and sustain the warfighters on the ground, refuel our defense in the air, and respond to humanitarian disasters around the world such as Hurricane Katrina -- all the while enabling our armed forces to deter other potential threats while we're already at war."
The chairman noted the difficulty of TRANSCOM's mission. "For any other nation on the planet, what you do would be 'Mission: Impossible,'" he said. "But you make the impossible look very easy."
Myers said this was demonstrated when the first major swap-out of forces in Iraq took place.
"This was going to be the movement of about 130,000 people engaged in combat, with all their support gear -- tons and tons of things," Myers said. "We started comparing it to other logistics movements in our past history, and we thought it was a pretty big deal. So I got all fired up in a meeting with the president one day with Secretary Rumsfeld, to tell him how hard this was going to be."
Myers recalled that the president stopped him early in the presentation and said it would be no big deal to move all the people and equipment from one place to another. "Well, we hope it won't," Myers said he told the president. "But we hope you know it's a really big deal made to look easy by real professionals."
The chairman called Handy "a national treasure."
"General Handy's vision -- and I'd say you'd have to say genius -- makes his voice one of undisputed authority on logistics in our armed forces, in Washington, D.C., and around the world," Myers said.
Schwartz, who most recently served as director of the Joint Staff after serving as its operations chief, noted that TRANSCOM is "unique in an extraordinary time, a time when the nation is at war and we face the consequences of a daunting natural disaster at home."
"Let us honor those Americans who have given their lives in the cause of freedom and those who perished in last week's storm -- and to a great public servant, the chief justice of the United States -- by recommitting ourselves to the task of making it happen and getting it done," he said.
Schwartz noted the important roles of TRANSCOM's joint partners: the Army's Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, the Navy's Military Sealift Command, and the Air Force's Air Mobility Command. "Together, we will serve our leadership and our nation's taxpayers well, efficiently and, if need be, with courage, reliability and precision," he said.
Until the Sept. 7 ceremonies, the TRANSCOM commander had been "dual-hatted" as commander of Air Mobility Command, TRANSCOM's Air Force component. The jobs now are separate, as Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher A. Kelly, AMC's vice commander, now commands AMC on a temporary basis, pending Senate confirmation of Air Force Lt. Gen. Duncan J. McNabb for promotion to four-star rank and appointment as the next AMC commander.