War on Terrorism

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Keep Focus on Troops, Mullen Tells Joint Forces Command

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2010 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today praised the members of U.S. Joint Forces Command for their efforts on behalf of the nation’s warfighters while urging them to maintain that focus going forward.

In a ceremony near the command’s Norfolk, Va., headquarters, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen presided as Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno assumed command of the organization.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced in August his plans to close Joint Forces Command next year as part of his initiative throughout the department to cut costs through efficiencies. Gates has said the command’s role in supporting joint forces can be absorbed in other areas. Though Mullen didn’t specifically address the possible closure in his remarks, he did thank the command’s military and civilian employees for their dedication amid the uncertainty.

“For most who serve, life is rarely easy and very little is guaranteed,” he said. “Particularly at this time in history, our focus cannot be here at this time. It needs to be about the young Americans over there, fighting for us. They are risking it all. And when we think about their sacrifice and service, the challenges we face in Washington, D.C. -- while serious -- are far less profound than what they, their families, and the families of the fallen have gone through.

“Thank you for keeping things in perspective as we meet the challenges before us,” he added.

The command’s military personnel and civilian employees haven’t lost focus, Mullen said, noting that they developed and implemented the relief plan that has sent more than 20 million pounds of supplies to Pakistan’s flood victims; completed another annual Empire Challenge multinational, interoperability exercise; completed seven major exercises involving four combatant commanders; and assisted three staff visits to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Today in Iraq and Afghanistan and countless other places overseas, we can all take pride in the fact that our young men and women in uniform represent the finest and most combat-hardened and most joint military in our history,” Mullen said, “and everyone here at Joint Forces Command can take pride in the role you’ve played in their support, and in their development.

“You have lived up to your commitment to always go to support warfighters in the field, rather than making them come to you,” he added.

Mullen said he can’t think of a better person to lead Joint Forces Command than Odierno, citing the general’s long history of high-level joint and interagency commands. Odierno and his wife, Linda, the chairman added, have “served nobly and endured profound sacrifices” while the general served 55 months commanding troops in Iraq, noting that Odierno has not been home for the past five Christmases.

“Thanks to Ray’s leadership and grit, and the determination of our forces, we see the dawn of a new era for more than 29 million Iraqis,” Mullen said.

The chairman said he expects Odierno will bring the same hands-on leadership style to Joint Forces Command that he used in Iraq.

“During times of great change, leadership is all the more essential,” Mullen said. “Ray Odierno was the right leader at the right time in Iraq, and he’s the right leader here today. Ray understands you can’t manage a war or any other endeavor from an office or command center. He leads from the front.”

The chairman also praised Army Lt. Gen. Keith M. Huber, who has been Joint Forces Command’s acting commander since Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis left in August to assume command of U.S. Central Command in August.

“In every sense of the concept, he’s lived up to the timeless military value and tradition that the next senior person takes charge when a leader departs,” Mullen said of Huber. “Quite simply, we are all lucky we had a person of Keith’s character and temperament to fill the very, very big shoes of General Mattis.”

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