TRANSCOM Assumption of Command (Scott, IL)
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Scott, IL, Friday, September 05, 2008
Good morning. Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. Of course, as Admiral Mullen suggested, it’s always a pleasure to be at least one time zone away from Washington. I’m honored to have a chance to say a few words about General Duncan McNabb as he assumes the critical post of commander of U.S. Transportation Command.
TRANSCOM came into being in the 1980s to consolidate military transportation functions and improve the capabilities of the armed forces as a whole. With its components – Air Mobility Command, Military Sealift Command, and Surface Deployment and Distribution Command – it has done just that. In times of peace and in times of war, this command has moved America’s military might around the globe on the land, in the sea, and in the air. Wherever there is a need for men and women or materiel, TRANSCOM gets the call. The sheer scale boggles the mind. During operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, this command has carried out 100,000 airlift missions; moved five billion gallons of fuel and moved 10 million tons of dry cargo; and helped transport five million passengers.
It’s not always the most glamorous mission – and surely doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. As General Schwartz once said, “It’s hard to jazz it up, but it’s like blocking and tackling, [and] . . . teams don’t score many touchdowns without a few blocks and tackles.” The war effort would be impossible without your blocks and tackles.
Our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan know the importance of TRANSCOM. More than 50,000 sick or injured troops have been transported out of the two theaters. And incredible feats like the delivery of nearly 10,000 MRAPs – not exactly economy-size vehicles – have helped save countless lives and limbs.
Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, TRANSCOM provides the crucial supply and support backbone that allows our military to carry out its missions across the globe – from combat operations to humanitarian relief. For instance, the command deployed more than 150 personnel throughout the United States to help prepare for Hurricane Gustav. As the storm struck, TRANSCOM airlifted over 7,000 passengers and over 700 patients to safety within a 36-hour period. Whether providing relief operations to Pakistan’s earthquake victims in 2005 or delivering hundreds of tons of aid supplies to the Republic of Georgia just last month, TRANSCOM’s reach extends the world over to help those in need.
With all these moving parts, and with the critical importance of every single mission, there is little doubt that this command requires a special kind of leader – one who can maintain a focus on details within the context of massive and myriad operations. General McNabb is the right person for this job.
He commanded the 41st Military Airlift Squadron during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, earning the Airlift Squadron of the Year in 1990. Later at the Joint Staff, as the Director of Logistics, General McNabb brought attention to our aging cargo aircraft fleet. As commander of the Air Mobility Command, he led 134,000 airmen in missions ranging from aerial refueling to medical evacuation. As the vice chief of staff of the Air Force, Duncan has been a strong advocate to do what’s right for our airmen, for the Department of Defense, and for the country. I will certainly miss his counsel.
As we know, General McNabb takes over from an uncommonly able leader. General Schwartz was planning to retire – until, as one news account put it, the Secretary of Defense “upended those intentions” by recommending that the President nominate him to be chief of staff of the Air Force. In his time at TRANSCOM, General Schwartz was responsible for many outstanding accomplishments in the areas of lift and mobility – as I mentioned a few moments ago.
I know he will serve the Air Force well, just as I know General McNabb will uphold the high standards and continue the outstanding work of this command. General, your service is an example for all airmen. I thank you, your wife Linda, and the rest of your family for everything you have done for our country over many decades. I wish you the best of luck at your new assignment.