Vice Chairman Honored for Contributions, Service
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 27, 2007 Cannons boomed, honor guards marched -- their multicolored flags rippling in the wind -- and a Macaw parrot made a surprise appearance today as defense, military and U.S. leaders gathered here to honor the retiring vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace salute as part of Giambastiani’s retirement ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., July 27, 2007. After graduating from the Naval Academy with leadership distinction in 1970, Giambastiani rose to become the seventh vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Pageantry reigned at today’s ceremony at the U.S. Naval Academy for Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, who retired after 37 years of commissioned service.
Hosted by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the event attracted a virtual “Who’s Who” of well-wishers who feted Giambastiani and honored his service and contributions. Among them were Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, national security advisor Stephen Hadley, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, combatant commanders from around the world, and foreign ambassadors.
Pace led the four speakers who took the podium in the “yard” of the Naval Academy -- where not only Giambastiani, but also his late brother Chick and his son Pete earned their Navy commissions -- to praise his vice chairman. But before uttering a single accolade, Pace let it be known that “if you put together all that we say (about Giambastiani), we still will have only scratched the surface.”
Pace said he took great confidence knowing that he could always turn to Giambastiani to do the hard jobs and that he could always count on him for straight-forward, clear-sighted guidance.
“It has been a blessing to know that no matter how short a timeline I gave you or how short the notice, that if I turned to you and said, ‘Ed, could you do this?”… you never blinked, (and) you always did it with a smile on your face,” Pace said.
“You always made me feel that whatever I had just dumped on you was a privilege for you to receive,” he added, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Pace said he most valued the counsel Giambastiani offered him. “You always looked me in the eye and told me what you believed, what should be done next and how it should be done,” he said. “To have you side by side … (and) to know that your brain and your energy has been available to this country has been a blessing.”
Cheney praised Pace and Giambastiani as “a remarkable team” that has given the Defense Department and the nation “extraordinary leadership and accomplishment.”
He called Giambastiani “a man of ability, a man of discernment and a man of character” who could be counted on “time and time again to accept the most demanding assignments.”
Cheney noted some of those assignments: commanding a nuclear-powered deep-research submarine, a fast-attack sub, a submarine-development squadron, and the Atlantic submarine fleet. “In every station, he excelled, bringing competence, reliability, courage and something more,” the vice president said.
But Cheney had special praise for Giambastiani’s ability to look ahead, recognize what’s needed and help forge the path to getting there. “This is a man who gets to where he is going by virtue of perseverance and clear-focused thinking,” the vice president said.
He pointed to Giambastiani’s insight in leading transformation as commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command and NATO’s first supreme allied commander for transformation. From there, he went on to serve as vice chairman, leading the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and “making the decisions that design the armed forces of the future.”
“Ed Giambastiani stands out as a visionary and a strategic thinker of the first order,” Cheney said.
Gates offered high praise for Giambastiani’s professionalism, remembering back to the days when they served together at the Central Intelligence Agency “in the middle of a virtual intelligence war.”
He noted the direct impact Giambastiani has had on men and women and uniform. At Joint Forces Command, he worked closely with Army Gen. Tommy Franks, former commander of U.S. Central Command, and his successors to convert battlefield information into lessons learned “with unprecedented speed,” Gates said.
But Giambastiani did more than get lessons learned to troops on the battlefield, he said. Leading the JROC committee, he “did an outstanding job of getting vital equipment to those on the front lines quickly,” Gates said.
England, who worked closely with Giambastiani in “running the business of business” within the Defense Department, gave the most personal sendoff at today’s ceremony.
Noting their strong friendship and the mutual respect they share, England called Giambastiani a smart, ethical, diplomatic leader who understands technology and defense programs as well as Pentagon and Washington, D.C., dynamics.
“And I am going to miss you in all those situations -- but I am really going to miss you at congressional hearings!” he joked.
England said he and Giambastiani laugh together all the time. “We share a philosophy that no matter how hard you work and no matter how hard the problem, you can have fun doing it,” he said.
Part of that fun includes a story the two have shared for the past two years about a parrot, England said. In what he acknowledged was an unusual twist during a solemn retirement ceremony, England presented Giambastiani with his own Macaw parrot, “Sweetie Pie.”
England closed his remarks with Morse code, a throwback to his and Giambastiani’s earlier days as Ham radio operators. To those in the crowd who don’t know Morse code, England read aloud his thanks to the Giambastianis for their service and his wish that the future holds fair winds and following seas.
“Today, their fantastic voyage is not ending,” England concluded. “Rather, it is only tacking onto a new course as they run with the wind in the years ahead.”