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Chairman Confers ‘Full Honors,’ Military Award on Polish Counterpart

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2008 – In the first “full honors” ceremony he’s hosted as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen welcomed his counterpart from Poland at the Pentagon today.

In full-dress Navy “whites,” Mullen greeted Gen. Franciszek Gagor, chief of general staff of the Polish armed forces, and his staff when they arrived in black sport-utility vehicles.

In less formal receptions -- known as “honor cordons” -- the military leaders would have disappeared into the Defense Department headquarters without much fanfare. In contrast, before their closed-door meeting today, Mullen led Gagor onto a podium facing a patch of grass upon which the Marine Band, color guard and several hundred servicemembers in formal uniforms gathered to participate in the afternoon’s pageantry.

As band members performed “Four Ruffles and Flourishes” and the “Flag Officer’s March,” three artillery pieces pointed toward the National Mall fired a volley of blanks in the direction of the sandstone Washington Monument obelisk jutting above the skyline. The Polish general carried out the traditional inspection of troops before returning to Mullen, who placed a Legion of Merit ribbon around Gagor’s neck.

“General Gagor’s inspired leadership and extraordinary contributions significantly enhanced understanding, improved cooperation, and greatly strengthened relations between the military of the United States and the Republic of Poland,” according to the award’s accompanying citation, which was read aloud over speakers.

The Legion of Merit is a military decoration of the United States armed forces awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. The decoration is issued both to United States military personnel and to military and political figures of foreign governments.

The citation lauded Gagor’s service in his current role, which he assumed in February 2006. In this position, the Polish general has served as an effective spokesman for his country’s government by establishing and maintaining dialogue with Defense Department officials on matters of mutual interest, the citation said.

Over the course of Gagor’s tenure, Poland has continued to cooperate closely with American diplomacy on such issues as democratization, nuclear proliferation, human rights, regional cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe, and United States reform, according to the State Department official Web site. Bilateral military talks during this time have produced agreements on installing U.S. missile defense parts on Polish soil.

The Eastern European republic of 38.5 million also has deployed a percentage of its roughly 140,500 uniformed servicemembers to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and to coalition efforts in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met his Polish counterpart in the nation’s capital of Warsaw last year. On his second visit since 1975, Gates praised the country’s contributions to allied operations abroad and remarked on Poland’s post-Cold War progress.

“All I can say is that Warsaw is a very different and very much better place today than it was in 1975,” Gates said in an April 2007 news conference in the Polish capital. “When I visited here in 1975, I never would have dreamed that 14 years later Poland would be free and that shortly after that the Cold War would be over.”

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Robert M. Gates
Adm. Mike Mullen

Related Sites:
State Department Background Note on Poland

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U.S., Polish Defense Leaders: Missile Defense Will Enhance Security

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