Mullen Lauds Gates’ ‘Distinguished Legacy’ at Farewell
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 30, 2011 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff led the praise for Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates during the Armed Forces Farewell Tribute ceremony in Gates’ honor today at the Pentagon.
“Secretary Gates has led our military in this time of war with impeccable skill and integrity, and a staunch commitment to truth-telling -- no matter how tough or even uncomfortable that truth may be, no matter how high or how low in the chain of command that truth needed to travel,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said.
In that regard and many others, Gates perfectly mirrors the pragmatism and grit of the service members he leads, the admiral said.
“I think that’s why so many of them are drawn to him,” Mullen added. “He tells it straight -- no bull, no fancy words.”
During the more than four years the secretary has led the nation’s military, Gates has been “infallibly, impenetrably honest,” Mullen said, adding that he once heard a soldier say, “That Gates guy couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie.”
Gates’ honesty has carried him through four decades of public service, the admiral noted.
“No fewer than eight American presidents have benefited from his sage advice, and to that number I could add literally hundreds of generals and admirals, thousands of college students at Texas A&M [University], and millions of American troops around the world,” Mullen said.
The secretary got his message through to all of those audiences in a big way, the chairman said.
“He made us think about things we hadn’t considered,” Mullen said. “He made us try a little harder; he made us lead a little better. He poked and he prodded and he pushed and he probed. He drilled down for details and never stopped asking us uncomfortable questions.”
Gates led the transition in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, spurred the department to find better business practices, forced the fielding of armored vehicles to save lives in combat, and insisted on the best possible care and support for returning veterans, Mullen said.
“That’s the other reason our troops respect you so much: You’re a fighter,” the chairman said of Gates. “They always knew that you always fought for them. They had no better friend.”
Mostly, Mullen said, he and his wife, Deborah, will miss the quiet dignity with which Gates and his wife, Becky, have served the military and the nation.
“To say that we are grateful is to vastly understate our emotions on this day,” the admiral said. “If there’s a more distinguished legacy of public service by any two Americans, I simply don’t know of it. And I thank you sir.”
This is Gates’ final day in office. A Pentagon spokesman announced the secretary will fly to his home state of Washington later today. Leon E. Panetta will be sworn in tomorrow as the 23rd secretary of defense.