Pace Pledges His Best Through End of Term
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
NORFOLK, Va., June 15, 2007 Although he would never voluntarily leave the battlefield while troops are at war, Marine Gen. Peter Pace said he accepts the decision to not renominate him for a second term.
Students, faculty and leaders at the Joint Forces Staff College give Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a standing ovation at the end of his presentation at the MacArthur Auditorium, June 14, 2007. Pace spoke at the Henry Clay Hofheimer Lecture Series in Norfolk, Va. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
On June 8, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced that he was going to recommend that President Bush nominate Adm. Michael G. Mullen as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rather than nominate Pace for another two-year term.
Pace discussed that decision process in response to a question posed following an address to students, faculty, and local military and community leaders at the Joint Forces Staff College here yesterday. The general was the featured speaker of the Henry Clay Hofheimer Lecture Series.
The general said that he and Gates discussed whether Pace should voluntarily retire and take the decision off the table.
“I said I could not do it for one very fundamental reason, and that is that ‘Pfc. Pace’ in Baghdad should not think ever that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield,” he said.
Out of his sense of leadership, he could not even consider the idea, Pace said. Therefore, he did not submit his retirement papers until after it became publicly known that he was not going to be renominated.
“That is very important to me,” Pace said. “That piece holds true for anybody in this position -- anybody.”
The general learned of the dilemma in May, within a day or two of the secretary learning from some members of Congress that they had concerns about renominating Pace.
“He brought me in the office and sat me down and said: ‘Pete, this is what’s happening. I want to renominate you. I want you to know that this is what I’m beginning to hear; this is what I’m going to go do; this is how I’m going to go do it,’” Pace said.
Gates went back to the Senate and “pulsed” some of the members. Pace told the secretary that he was “all for it” if Gates wanted to push forward with the renomination.
But Pace also told the secretary to do what he thought was best for the institution. “Whatever he and the president decided was going to be best for the institution was what Pete Pace was going to do,” the general said.
During the June 8 news conference, Gates said confirmation hearings for Pace would be contentious and not in the best interests of the country.
“I am no stranger to contentious confirmations, and I do not shrink from them,” Gates said. “However, I have decided that at this moment in our history, the nation, our men and women in uniform, and General Pace himself would not be well served by a divisive ordeal in selecting the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”
In his remarks yesterday, Pace also spoke of a more personal reason that affected his decision to not voluntarily retire.
“The other piece for me personally was that some 40 years ago I left some guys on the battlefield in Vietnam who lost their lives following Second Lieutenant Pace,” he said. “I promised myself then that I will serve this country until I was no longer needed. I need to be told that I’m done. I’ve been told I’m done.”
Pace said he will continue to give the job of chairman his best through the end of his term.
“I will run through the finish line on 1 October, and when I run through the finish line I will have met the mission I set for myself,” he said to a standing ovation.