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Lieutenant General Steven Blum Award Ceremony (Washington, D.C.)
As Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Washington, D.C., Monday, November 17, 2008

     It’s a privilege to be here on this historic occasion for America’s National Guard. And I’d like to extend a warm welcome our distinguished guests, and especially the Adjutants General who traveled here from across the country to join us today.
     The first order of business is to honor and recognize the achievements of Lieutenant General Steve Blum. For more than five years, Steve has been a dynamic and effective leader of – and passionate advocate for – America’s National Guard community during a time of wrenching change for our citizen soldiers. He guided the transformation of the Guard from a habitually neglected strategic reserve into a fully operational force – a period that included the Guard’s most significant wartime deployment since World War Two. In fact, at one point, half of the Army combat brigades in Iraq were from the Guard. General Blum’s tenure also saw the Guard’s impressive response to Hurricane Katrina when, despite the Guard’s substantial overseas commitments, tens of thousands of troops deployed rapidly to the Gulf Coast in a matter of days.
     In January, Steve will become the first Guard officer to become a deputy combatant commander when he assumes his new post at Northern Command – an organization he knows well, having previously served as NORTHCOM's chief of staff. I should note that one of my motivations in recommending his nomination was to position a senior Guard officer to potentially head a combatant command.
     Steve: thank you – for your outstanding service to the men and women of the National Guard, and for your contributions to America’s security these past five years, and throughout your career.
     Please publish the order.