Pete, thank you for that kind introduction.
And thank you all for coming. It is a real pleasure to attend this promotion and swearing-in ceremony, though I have to admit that it is also bittersweet. Bitter – because Pete Chiarelli has for the last 17 months been a constant source of friendship and support to me. And I will miss him.
Sweet – because I can think of no one more deserving of a fourth star, and no one better prepared to take over the important post of vice chief of staff of the Army.
I first met General Chiarelli when I was in Baghdad as part of the Iraq Study Group. He was in charge of briefing us on possible military options for the future – this in September 2006, when there seemed to be little cause for hope. I was very impressed by his depth of understanding – by his commanding knowledge of the battlefield, of tactics that had worked as well as those that had not.
Of course, giving presentations on the tenets of counterinsurgency is a long way from Pete’s roots in the military. He once told reporters that he had “dreamed of commanding ‘large mechanized formations across vast open deserts.’” Unfortunately, Pete was several wars too late to substitute for General Patton in North Africa. Still, Pete, a tanker by trade, spent four years in Germany in the late 1980s as part of the Third Armored Division – prepared to hold the line against a massive conventional offensive along the Fulda Gap.
Less than two weeks after he arrived in Baghdad as the commander of the First Cavalry Division, any notions about what kind of fight we were in were shattered. It was called “Black Sunday” – and eight soldiers were killed in Sadr City. Pete will never forget their names, and they are a stark reminder to him of the human costs of war and the gratitude and debt we owe all of our fighting men and women.
By early 2004, Pete had come to believe that only by simultaneously providing jobs, services, reconstruction, and security could we attain our strategic objectives in Iraq. He sent a picture to one of his mentors of a little Iraqi girl sitting in a sewer, a symbol of the mission to take care of and secure the Iraqi people. It was an example of the old Clausewitz maxim to understand the war you are in – and the implications that has for how you fight it.
Pete’s beliefs were only solidified on his second tour, when he was in charge of all day-to-day operations as corps commander in Iraq. Given his experience, there are few commanders who better understand the nature of the fight – who know what the Army will need in coming years to fight the current conflicts and prepare for future ones.
And in that preparation, Pete is unabashed in telling anyone who will listen that our men and women are our greatest asset. He cares deeply about the welfare of each and every soldier. He has been described by troops under him in many ways: as a father figure, a health advocate, a career advisor, and even a marriage counselor. His passion is obvious to everyone who meets him.
In our time together, he has helped me understand what impact my actions will have on the warfighters – the men and women who, in his words, “walk the street every day looking the devil in the eye.” General Chiarelli has been their staunchest advocate, and I have made better decisions because of him. I know that he will bring that same intensity to his new role. As I told a gathering last week, as long as there is a single soldier in harm’s way, as long as there is a single Army family in need, Pete will never rest.
The Army is undergoing its largest expansion and transformation in more than a generation – and it is doing so while under incredible stress. With his keen understanding of the 21st century battlefield and the threats we may face in the future, and his deep and abiding love of every soldier, Pete will be an incredibly valuable addition to the Army’s leadership. I thank you for your ongoing service.
I also want to recognize Pete’s wife, Beth, who has often been describe as a “saint” by those who know her. We don’t know whether that’s for being married to Pete for more than 30 years or what. For many years, she has played an important role in organizations devoted to helping our military families. Wherever the Chiarellis have been stationed, Beth has made a positive and lasting impact on the community. I know she will continue to support our soldiers and their families in any way she can. Thank you, Beth.
General, it has been an honor working with you. Congratulations on your promotion, and good luck with your new assignment.