Petreaus, Crocker Receive State Department’s Highest Honor
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2008 The State Department today conferred its highest award on the U.S. commander and diplomat who oversaw a dramatic drop in violence in Iraq and forged a model for future military-civilian partnership.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice presented the Distinguished Service Award to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker, saying that no two public servants are more deserving of the honor.
“May you accept this award as but a small down payment on the vast and enduring gratitude that our entire nation owes to each of you, and may you depart your post in Iraq … confident in knowledge that you have made an immeasurable contribution to the success of Iraq and to the security of our beloved country,” she said.
During his nearly 20-month tenure, Petraeus commanded Multinational Force Iraq amid a surge of 33,000 U.S. troops, overseeing the quelling of fighting in the contentious Anbar province and an ensuing 80-percent drop in overall violence in Iraq. Rice also credited Petraeus with reviving the “lost art” of counterinsurgency.
“Under General Petraeus's leadership, U.S. and coalition troops have not only taken the fight to the enemies of Iraq. They have focused on securing the people of Iraq,” Rice said. “They have turned adversaries into allies, and they have provided the new Iraqi army with the training and support it needs to emerge as an increasingly capable and self-sufficient force.”
Rice praised military servicemembers and their families for bearing “the most awful burdens of this fight.”
“[They are people] who do everything that is asked of them and more, and who do it all with grace and grit and the silent confidence of true bravery,” she said. “America's servicemen and women, both the living and the departed, are heroes for all time, and words do no justice to the debt that we owe them.”
Petraeus, who later this month takes the reins of U.S. Central Command, accepted his award today on behalf of the military personnel he served with in Iraq and the families who endured their separation. In a final letter to troops before departing Iraq, the general said he could not envision any greater privilege than having served with them, he told the audience.
He added that improvements would have been impossible without a unity of purpose and effort with the military’s diplomatic counterparts.
“No soldier could be so privileged as to have such a great diplomatic partner, and it was a great honor for me to be his military wingman,” Petraeus said of Crocker.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates praised the partnership between the general and the diplomat while appearing before the Senate Armed Service Committee last week.
“Beyond their own brilliant individual performances, the Petraeus-Crocker team was a superb model of military-civilian partnership, and one that should be studied and emulated for years to come,” he said.
Accepting his award via videoteleconference from Baghdad, Crocker praised his working relationship with Petraeus, whom he called “the greatest military commander of his generation.”
“Thanks to all of you, my colleagues, and thanks to my colleagues who wear the uniforms of our great military for what truly is a total partnership,” he said.