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Remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at a Ceremony for the Chief of Staff of the Army's Relinquishment of Responsibility and the Sergeant Major of the Army's Change of Responsibility (As Delivered)

Well, good morning, everyone.

I understand that there may be some classmates here from USMA class of '81.


I don't know if they are or not. I didn't hear them, Jim.


Welcome. Thank you, Secretary Wormuth. We're lucky to have you as our Secretary of the Army.

And I'm glad to be here with so many distinguished guests and military leaders—including General Milley, who knows a thing or two about being the Chief of Staff of the Army. General, thank you for your dedication and your leadership of the Joint Chiefs.

Today, we salute the exceptional service of General Jim McConville and applaud his tremendous work as the 40th Chief of Staff of the Army.

I'm also honored to congratulate Sergeant Major of the Army Tony Grinston on his stewardship of the enlisted force, and to welcome our new Sergeant Major of the Army, Michael Weimer.

But above all, we're here to celebrate the United States Army.

You know, nearly 250 years ago—even before the United States declared its independence—our new republic stood up an Army. And ever since, American soldiers have had one core mission, and that core mission is to fight and win our nation's wars.

That takes tenacity. It takes teamwork. And it also takes transformation.

So Secretary Wormuth, and General McConville, and Sergeant Major Grinston have been leading the Army's most sweeping transformation in more than 40 years.

Today, the entire Army enterprise is updating itself to ensure that our soldiers stay ready for any challenge that the 21st century can throw at them.

The Army is becoming a multi-domain force.

You are modernizing your inventory of advanced capabilities with long-range precision fires, and next-generation combat vehicles, and missile defense, and more.

The Army also has brought its doctrine into the 21st century.

And you've created new organizations that can provide more and better capabilities to combatant commanders, and strengthen our partnerships around the world, and sustain the fight whenever and wherever needed.

You know, I've seen that in action. And it's pretty impressive.

In Europe, I've met with our soldiers defending NATO's Eastern Flank and training Ukrainian troops who are fighting for their freedom against Russia's cruel war of choice. And in the Indo-Pacific, I've talked with American soldiers who are working alongside partner forces to strengthen stability and deterrence across the region.

Now, as you heard Secretary Wormuth say, throughout all these changes, the Army is putting people first. And that has been General McConville's philosophy throughout his career as Chief.

So the Army has been investing in housing, increasing access to child care, making moves easier, and much, much more. And the Army is making sure that all of our soldiers can contribute the full range of their talents and their skills.

And as General McConville always says, "Winning matters." But there is no winning without our people. So Jim, I want to commend you and your team for the fierce dedication to our soldiers and to their families.

Today, the United States Army is the strongest army, and we have the strongest military, that the world has ever known. And it's amazing the distance that the Army has traveled since I took the oath myself back in 1975.

And all that progress has been powered by patriotism.

It comes from Americans from all walks of life who volunteer to support and defend our Constitution, and to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and to protect our country and our founding values of freedom and democracy.

Now, we're marking the 50th anniversary this year of the start of our All-Volunteer Force. And every American soldier today chose to serve. They chose to sign up. They chose to risk their lives for the common defense.

And in return, they rightly expect that the U.S. military will take care of them and their families.

And all our troops expect and deserve tested and seasoned leaders who are fully focused and fully empowered to make the hard calls.

Unfortunately, today, for the first time in the history of the Department of Defense, two of our services will be operating without Senate-confirmed leadership.

And as you heard Secretary Wormuth say earlier, 301 nominations for our general and flag officers are being held up.

So let me be clear. In our dangerous world, the security of the United States demands orderly and prompt transitions of our confirmed military leaders. 

Great teams need great leaders.

That's central to maintaining the full might of the most lethal fighting force on Earth.

It's vital for our global leadership—and for the trust and confidence of our outstanding network of allies and partners.

The failure to confirm our superbly qualified senior uniformed leaders undermines our military readiness. It undermines our retention of some of our very best officers. And it is upending the lives of far too many of their spouses, children, and loved ones.

And this disruption is the last thing that America's military families deserve.

But I'm confident that we'll get this fixed. And I'm confident that we can all agree on our deeply American duty to stand for those who choose to wear the cloth of our nation. And I am confident that the United States Senate will meet its responsibilities and swiftly confirm our 41st Chief of Staff of the Army.


The next Chief of the Army will continue the momentum that General McConville has built over the past four years.

General McConville has led with strength, vision, and an unshakable determination to drive change.

Now, General McConville's training as a soldier started all the way back in Quincy, Massachusetts. In fact, he used to play "Army" with a kid who lived down the street by the name of Joe Dunford. To be fair, Joe always thought that they were playing "Marines."


But either way, it turned out to be pretty good training. And Jim McConville went on to graduate from West Point in the class of 1981.


Chief, I'm hearing some rumblings over there. I think you may have a presence. Not sure.


One summer, Jim visited Fort Knox. And he got to fly in an OH-58 Kiowa warrior helicopter, which was piloted by a Vietnam-era pilot. And right then and there, Jim knew that he wanted to fly in the Air Cav.

So he became an infantry officer with an aviation specialty—which he calls the best of both worlds. And he has been the first aviator ever to serve as the Army's Chief of Staff.

Jim's distinctive viewpoint, sometimes from thousands of feet in the air, has served him well—from leading soldiers to serving as the G-1, where he developed a deep understanding of what soldiers and their families need most, to his time as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army.

Now, according to Jim, the best thing that ever happened to him was meeting his wife, Maria, when she was a Second Lieutenant serving at Fort Ord.

Maria McConville has an impressive career as a dietician, a fitness trainer, and a health coach. And even while running her own business, she has always focused on empowering military spouses and families. So Maria, thank you for all of your service and all of your commitment.


And the two of you have raised a whole family of Army officers: Major Michael McConville; Captain Jessica Nanzer—who, for good measure, married a fellow Army officer, Lieutenant Ryan Nanzer; and Captain Ryan McConville.

You are an extraordinary and exemplary military family. And I want to thank all of the McConvilles for your service.


General, we wish you and the family all the best for a well-deserved retirement.

Today, I am also proud to honor Sergeant Major of the Army Grinston as he heads into his own retirement.

Tony is the real deal. He's a battle-tested warfighter and an artilleryman. He's a graduate of Ranger, and Airborne, and Drill Sergeant, and Air Assault Schools. He's a brilliant strategist and a master of tactics.

And when the game is on the line, with seconds left on the clock, and you need to win, you give the ball to Tony.

You know, when I was CENTCOM Commander, I saw Tony lead our troops in combat in Afghanistan. And in Iraq, he was the senior enlisted leader for one of our division headquarters.

And so for 36 years, Tony has lived by the NCO creed: "No one is more professional than I."

And Tony, I know that you'll probably take retirement just as seriously as you've taken the NCO creed. I heard that when you go golfing, Tony, you demand to walk all 18 holes. But Tony, even the most professional golfers take carts—so you might want to think about that going forward.


Tony, I don't know if you have relaxation on your agenda after taking off the uniform, but you've definitely earned it. An incredible job.

And let me also thank Tony's wife, Alexandra.

Alexandra has a master's degree in education, and she works in Washington at the German embassy. And over the years, she's spent so much of her time supporting military families—from financial assistance to helping children and spouses further their education. And she's helped make sure that families grieving the loss of a loved one get the resources and the care that they need. 

Let me also thank their two daughters, Sophia and Isabella, for being Tony's rock all these years.

Again, Tony, we wish you all the best in your next chapter. Congratulations, soldier.


Now, today we passed the colors to our new Sergeant Major of the Army, Michael Weimer.

Mike earned his Green Beret back in 1996. And for more than 20 years, he has served as an Army special operator to complete missions around the globe. He's fresh off of leading our troops at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

And I know that his dedication and his professionalism are going to make him a fantastic 17th Sergeant Major of the Army. So thanks for taking on this new post to lead our soldiers and to give them the support that they deserve.

I also want to thank your wife, Kimberly, and your daughters, Ansley and Zoe, for serving right alongside you.

And I know that you'll make sure that this service remains "Army strong," and everyone can "be all that they can be."

Ladies and gentlemen, it was true even before we were a country: America's soldiers fight to win. And that's exactly what you'll do for every challenge ahead.

We'll deter conflict where we can. But if we have to defend ourselves, we will fight, and we will win—and we will win decisively.

And that's because of the leaders who we're honoring today. It's because of all our selfless soldiers who raise their hands to serve. And it's because of your commitment to make our country stronger and our world safer.

The United States Army has never failed in its mission for the American people.

And it never will.

May God bless our United States Army. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Thank you very much.