Cartwright Reflects on Four Decades of Service
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2011 Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, today bid a ceremonial farewell to the military he has served for nearly 40 years in a ceremony at the Marine Barracks here.
Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, salutes during the playing of the national anthem at a farewell tribute in his honor at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., Aug. 3, 2011. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Everyone who has ever joined the U.S. military, the general said, realizes they’d made a choice to serve their nation and to make a difference.
“The beauty, at least for me, … was that I got to see things firsthand,” he said.
Cartwright noted that he has witnessed racial integration, gender integration and lifestyle integration during his time in uniform.
“Because of that diversity, we’re a better nation,” he said.
As the Defense Department continues to increase its diverse approach through interagency cooperation and coalition operations, it is developing a tool and an advantage, he said.
“We just have to embrace it and not be afraid of it,” the vice chairman said. “It always leaves us better.”
Cartwright said when he was a young officer, a commander he considered one of the smartest people he’d ever met gave him the “in the arena” passage from a speech Theodore Roosevelt delivered in 1910.
Cartwright quoted from the passage: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short … who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Cartwright said those words have guided him through the years, and allowed him to find kindred spirits.
The vice chairman acknowledged that he is known as someone who embraces technology. “That really is more about how to find advantage for the warfighter, how to find advantage” for the service members who use military equipment, he said.
Cartwright said through the national laboratories, the Defense Department and other agencies, he has been able to find people who dare greatly, “whether it was to shoot down a satellite or to take the night time away from the enemy with night-vision goggles … [or] with radar.”
“It was people that were willing to do this, people who were willing to look at things like body armor and … vehicle armor, to help keep and preserve the lives of our young soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen,” he said. “People who were willing to go to places and change the course of history in places like Fallujah and Abottabad. Willing to enter into the arena.”
His role has largely been to give those people opportunities and protect them from failing, he said.
Cartwright said his advice to those in the arena is, “Do the next right thing. Do not worry about the criticism. Do not worry about those who would be the critics. Do what is right.”
Military service teaches that people have obligations to each other, Cartwright said: to visit the wounded, to comfort the families of the fallen, to attend the funerals and honor the people killed fighting the nation’s wars.
“Our moral obligation does not end when we finish active service; it does not end when we leave the cemetery,” he said. “We’re responsible for these people for life.”
That commitment is not just for a battle, or a tour of duty, or a military career, Cartwright said.
“That is a moral obligation this country, and we as leaders, have to ensure that we take care of them all through their lives, and all through our own lives,” he said.
Cartwright said he challenges past, present and future leaders to never forget that obligation.
“Today, my last salute is in honor of all who have served, all who are serving and all who will serve,” he said.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said during the farewell tribute that Cartwright, known as “Hoss,” is an extraordinary public servant and an extraordinary Marine.
“As the department confronts the strategic and institutional challenges that lie ahead, we will be a much stronger country, a much stronger America, because of his outstanding tenure as vice chairman,” the secretary said.
Cartwright challenged positions and was not afraid of a contrary view, the secretary said.
“Our fellow citizens, and future generations of Americans, are safer because of your work,” Panetta said to Cartwright. “On their behalf, I thank you for the great service that you have performed for this nation. The measure of any individual in life is whether you make a difference. And Hoss Cartwright made a difference.”
Cartwright was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in November 1971. He completed naval flight officer training in April 1973 and graduated from naval aviator training in January 1977. He has piloted the F-4, OA-4, and F/A-18. He is a distinguished graduate of the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and holds a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College, Newport, R.I. The general completed a fellowship with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Cartwright has commanded 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and U.S. Strategic Command, and has served on the Joint Staff as deputy director for force structure and requirements and as director for force structure, resources and assessment.