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Ralston Turns Vice Chair Job Over to Myers

By Master Sgt. Anne Proctor, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT MYER, Va., March 3, 2000 – An Armed Forces Tribute and Welcoming Ceremony was the occasion of the changeover of the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Before nearly 600 people at Comny Hall, Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston turned the reins of office over to Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presided. The vice chairman is the U.S. military’s second highest-ranking service member.

Ralston leaves to become the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command in May. Myers is now the fifth vice chairman. He comes to the position after serving as commander in chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

Cohen presented Ralston, a 35-year veteran, with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. He was recognized for his contributions to Allied Force air operations over Kosovo, Joint Guardian peacekeeping in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Mitch.

The award also recognized Ralton’s work as chairman of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and vice chairman of the Defense Acquisition Board. Cohen praised Ralston for his vision and involvement in the procurement and allocation of resources for future military operations.

Cohen said Ralston was a most unassuming leader and that people know little of his accomplishments. Three decades ago, Cohen said, in the skies over Vietnam 1st Lt. Joe Ralston risked his life to save downed pilots and flew over heavily defended areas of North Vietnam.

“That pilot became a pioneer,” Cohen said. “Historians of tomorrow will look to the stealth operations of today and know the legacy of Joe Ralston will be measured in the lives saved and the victories secured."

"We have witnessed his fortitude [and] incomparable resolve in guiding operations the world over. We have witnessed his piercing intelligence -- Joint Vision is now transforming our forces," said Cohen. He added that Ralston particularly respected those he commanded, sometimes delaying meetings to conduct recognition ceremonies for people "even the most junior subordinates," said the secretary.

Shelton presented Ralston’s wife Dede with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Distinguished Public Service Award. She was cited for her volunteerism at home and abroad, as well as her efforts to improve quality of life and family support programs for military members. Shelton called her a "tireless ambassador of goodwill."

Before relinquishing his office, Ralston told the crowd that in looking back on the last four years he would remember the interlocking circles involved with getting the job done. He said was proud of the decisions the Joint Chiefs have made in both war and peace, but he was most proud “of the teamwork we have demonstrated as part of the senior [military and civilian] leadership in this DoD."

Myers was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He is a 1965 graduate of Kansas State University, and holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Auburn University. Myers entered the Air Force in 1965 through ROTC. His career includes operational command and leadership positions in a variety of Air Force and joint assignments. He is a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours in the T-33, C-21, F-4, F-15 and F-16, including 600 combat hours in the F-4.

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Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen at the Farewell Ceremony in Honor of Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joseph Ralston, Feb. 29, 2000

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston speaks at the Armed Forces Tribute and Welcoming Ceremony, Feb. 28. (DoD photo by Mamie Burke)  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary William S. Cohen (far right), swears in Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers (far left), Feb. 28, as the fifth Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Myers wife, Mary Jo, assists. (DoD photo by Mamie Burke)  
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