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Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks at the NORAD-USNORTHCOM Change of Command Ceremony (As Delivered)

Good morning to everyone. It's truly a pleasure to be back here in Colorado Springs.

And I'm especially pleased to see the staggering number of special guests who have gathered today to honor General Glen VanHerck for his three decades of military service and leadership, and to welcome General Greg Guillot as the next commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. 

Let me extend an especially warm welcome to Marilyn VanHerck, Caroline Guillot, and the members of both the VanHerck and Guillot families who are here with us in person, and to those tuning in to this ceremony remotely from around the country. 

We recognize the disruption and uncertainty that last year's unnecessary and unprecedented hold on the promotion of general and flag officers caused you and your families.  We are grateful to move forward both from it and to focus now on strengthening your leadership team, and grateful to you for your resilience and steadfastness throughout that time.  

Thank you also to Minister Blair, Chairman Brown, and General Eyre. 
This ceremony, and you joining us here today, demonstrate the unbreakable alliance between our two nations and our unification under a common purpose—defense of our homelands.

It's also my distinct pleasure to be here with the men and women of USNORTHCOM and NORAD. 

Your outstanding service, under this unified command, helps to preserve our collective ability to defend our nations—the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Bahamas—and to help preserve international peace and stability.

In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the world stood by the United States and joined us in the refrain, "never forget." And we won't. Yet, it was also our responsibility since then to live up to its twin promise of "never again."

Activated in response to the September 11th terrorist attacks, USNORTHCOM was charged with protecting North America from external threats. 

And knowing that those threats would evolve over time, this command was designed to draw from the full strength of our military services' talent, capabilities, and approaches—land, air, sea, and cyberspace—at any given moment in time and history. 

For more than 20 years now, you have stood the watch, protecting our people, and projecting power across domains and theaters in defense of our homeland. 

Whether it's conducting joint and combined training and education, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime domain awareness, or cyber defense, NORAD-NORTHCOM enhances our common security and deepens our ties to our closest neighbors.

In recent years, that has meant facing down both acute and persistent threats, including Russian long-range aviation, North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles, and Russian and Chinese out-of-area maritime operations. 

Not to mention the first kinetic engagement of a foreign object over North America since World War II, when NORAD expertly led the safe shoot down and recovery of a PRC high-altitude surveillance balloon off the South Carolina coast.

And in response to rising strategic competition in the Arctic Circle, NORTHCOM has been a relentless advocate for enhanced Arctic capabilities.

This is all proof that we are better prepared today to deter, detect, and defeat any threats to the homeland—and in no small part thanks to General Glen VanHerck's leadership of NORAD-NORTHCOM.  

As General VanHerck has so aptly put it, "To compete globally, we must be strong at home." Over the past three-and-a-half years, Glen has advanced this mission with a singular and intense focus.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Glen led the Defense Department's support of our federal, state, local, and tribal partners, which included the safe repatriation of U.S. personnel and travelers, the rapid establishment of alternate care sites, the distribution of protective equipment, and the dispatching of thousands of military medical personnel to overwhelmed hospitals.

Once vaccines were made available, Glen oversaw the delivery of millions of doses across the country. This critical logistical and operational support was essential to our nation's response to the greatest public health emergency in our lifetime.

Then in 2021, through Operation Allies Welcome, NORTHCOM provided vital support for tens of thousands of Afghan nationals—including those who worked alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan—as they safely resettled in the United States. This support included transportation, medical screening, and temporary housing for more than 70,000 Afghans. 

These examples speak to Glen's brilliant mind and servant heart—which he unflinchingly attributes to his upbringing.  

Glen's path seems a bit preordained in retrospect. He is the son of two general aviation pilots, Don and Melba Jean VanHerck, who passed along their love of flying to their son. Glen's destiny was realized in 1989, when he completed his Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. 

The Squadron Commander who filed his training report noted then-Lieutenant VanHerck's natural ability and exceptional foresight, remarking that, "He thought well ahead of the aircraft"— precisely the kind of strategic and operational thinking we encourage in our emerging leaders. 

Glen was born to fly, yes. And looking back on his distinguished military career, it's also clear he was born to lead, having commanded throughout his career at the squadron, group, and wing levels, as well as at the United States Air Force Warfare Center. 

Here at NORTHCOM, General VanHerck led the design of global integration by launching the Global Information Dominance Experiment series, which the Department has built upon to advance joint all-domain command and control. His tireless advocacy and vision were equally critical to the Department's homeland defense capability advances, including through the Secretary's issuance of the 2023 Homeland Defense Policy Guidance. 

Through these and other initiatives, Glen has led our efforts to pace to the growing multi-domain threat to the homeland posed by the People's Republic of China.  And because of General VanHerck's leadership, NORAD-NORTHCOM is well-positioned to lead execution of this policy. 

Glen, thank you for your lifetime of service, but of course, I also need to thank Marilyn. 

Glen and Marilyn first met when they were in grade school. At the time, their families lived less than a mile apart from one another in Bismarck, Missouri—a community that I know continues to mean so much to the two of them. 

Since then—and over the course of 36 years of marriage and some 20 moves—Glen has thrived on Marilyn's steadfast love and support. 

But Glen has not been the only one. Marilyn, please know that your contributions have touched the lives of thousands of service members and their families. On behalf of the Department, we thank you for your service in defense of the nation.

Glen and Marilyn, you've more than earned your chance to take it easy wherever you now choose to call home, and we wish you well on your next adventure. 

General Greg Guillot will continue to build on the tremendous work underway at NORAD-NORTHCOM.

Similar to his predecessor, Greg had his sights set on flight from a young age. His father, Reb, was an Air Force officer and a two-tour Vietnam War veteran, who paved the way for Greg to follow in his footsteps to the Air Force Academy.

During his career, Greg has commanded a flying squadron, an operations group, two flying wings, and a numbered Air Force. He has served on numbered Air Force, major command, air, and combatant command staffs. 

As commander of AFCENT, Greg led Air Force components in support of Operation Allies Refuge, the 2021 airlift of Afghan civilians out of Kabul—the largest non-combatant evacuation operation in American history. Greg now takes command following his most recent assignment as Deputy Commander of CENTCOM, where he has been instrumental in protecting our forces and advancing U.S. interests.

Gooey, you are well-prepared to lead this command at this critical moment. In fact, this is not your first rotation at NORTHCOM. So we're confident that you will remember your way around the base and hit the ground running.

And to your family... 

I'd like to acknowledge your mom who is watching proudly today from Tucson, Arizona, as well as your mother- and father-in law, who are tuning in from Oklahoma City. 

To General Guillot's children, Elizabeth and Mark, know that "proud dad" is among his most cherished titles. 

And to Caroline, on behalf of the Department, thank you for the sacrifices you've made in support of the mission, and welcome back to Peterson. 

When NORTHCOM'S first commander, General Ed Eberhart, who is here with us today, declared the command had reached full operational capability on September 11, 2003, he stated, "This is not an end state. This is, in fact, part of a journey. We'll never truly reach full operational capability. We are always going to be striving to do better." 

That sentiment is as true today as it was more than 20 years ago. And as this command's leadership passes from General VanHerck to General Guillot, we know that NORAD-NORTHCOM will continue evolving to stand the watch.

So, to Gooey and Caroline, thank you for your continued commitment to service and to this nation.

And to Glen and Marilyn, thank you for your decades of selfless service. I wish you blue skies on your well-deserved retirement.