General Pace, thank you so very much for those kind words and -- needless to say, for your superb leadership in the Department of Defense as the senior military leader in our country and adviser to the President of the United States. The American people are most fortunate that you chose to wear our country's uniform. Thank you, Pete.
Members of Congress and military and civilian leaders here -- all those in uniform -- friends and family of General John Craddock and Admiral Jim Stavridis. Distinguished guests from around the world.
I'm very pleased to join with you as we send one fine leader off to his new assignment and we welcome another fine leader to this command.
I've heard a good deal about John Craddock. It seems to me that so many distinguished leaders from our hemisphere have joined us here today to thank him for his service and to wish him and Linda well in their new assignment.
Linda, I'm told that John recently described you as “the best soldier in the Craddock family.” Through the years, you've been a partner he could count on, giving so much and looking after the needs of so many military families. And I know the folks here at the Southern Command appreciate all that you have done for them as do we. Thank you so much for your service. (Applause.)
The other day, I was thinking about General Craddock's military service. He's been around a long time. How many years -- John, 35 years or something like that?
Doesn't look so long to me, but -- (laughter) -- I guess John made his mark first as an Armor officer in M1 Tanks -- several decades ago.
As a matter of fact, I was the one who approved the M1 Tank back in 1975, I think.
Since that time:
· John has commanded an armored battalion during Operation Desert Storm and;
· He's a brigade at Fort Knox;
· The 1st Infantry Division, and;
· He's also served in what I suspect he found to be one of his toughest assignments ever, and that was as the senior military assistant in the Pentagon, and he did a superb job there, as Pete Pace indicated.
And now he completes a highly successful tour as commander of the Southern Command. One of his colleagues once compared John to an “all-star” shortstop -- quiet, but you always knew that he would handle every ball that came his way and make it look easy -- and that's exactly what John Craddock's done.
Two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to see first-hand the benefits of his service here in Southern Command, his consensus-building leadership.
It was in Nicaragua. We had a meeting of the defense ministers of the entire hemisphere, and some -- representatives of some 32 nations were gathered in Nicaragua to discuss how to better promote peace and stability here in this hemisphere. And it was striking that in each of our meetings there seemed to be some core themes that indicated a common perspective. And a common approach and a cooperative and cohesive feeling among the nations of the hemisphere that reflected an awareness that the problems faced by our countries -- all of our countries in this hemisphere -- can't be solved by any one country alone.
Whether it's counternarcotics or gangs or hostage taking, counterterrorism, each of these 21st century problems, difficulties, challenges, require a very close working relationship among our nations.
And a great many countries in our hemisphere understand this today. And they have come to understand it in no small part because of the leadership of General John Craddock and the Southern Command. His ability to make things happen has contributed to an era of growing cooperation here in this hemisphere.
General Craddock is well suited to his next assignment, in a region that also needs to work together in ways that fit this new 21st Century. His ability to make things happen is an important quality. As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, John will assume the command that was, I believe, first led by General Dwight Eisenhower so many years ago. I know that the NATO alliance, the military and civilian leadership as well as our very important European Command there, will welcome you, John, and that you will serve the alliance and our country well.
I can also say with a great deal of confidence that your successor here at the Southern Command -- Admiral Jim Stavridis -- will continue the strong progress this region has experienced ever since -- at least since General Pete Pace served here as the commander. The next leader here -- Jim Stavridis -- has spent a good deal of his career at sea taking on tough assignments; notably, commanding a carrier strike group in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. And over the last two years, I've come to rely on his counsel and his sound judgment, to my great benefit and to the benefit of the Department of Defense.
Jim, you're the right man for this important post. And it is an exceedingly important post, and I know you will do a superb job for our country. We wish you full success. Congratulations and Godspeed. (Applause.)