Home : Media : Speeches

Gen. Dempsey's Remarks at General Peter Chiarelli's Retirement

By As Delivered by General Martin E. Dempsey, Washington, D.C.
GENERAL MARTIN E. DEMPSEY: Good morning, everyone. And I want to add my thanks for all of you for being here. Deanie and I are deeply honored to be part of this ceremony to ‘whistle you over the side,’ in a reference to Admiral Mullen, my immediate predecessor as the chairman. I’ll tell you, the – just to repeat what Grace said, people were telling me we were going to be out here on January 31st to do this in an outdoor ceremony, and I said: You’re nuts. So it is – it’s a testimony to your own connections with the good Lord, I think, that this is possible. So thanks for letting us do it.

And I am well aware that there’s dozens of people in the stands here, and some who are not here with us today, that would – are envious that I’m given the opportunity to thank you. And so on behalf of all of us, let me make some brief remarks.

What I want to tell you is about Pete Chiarelli the man. You’ve heard a lot about his performance as a soldier. I’ve had the rare privilege of knowing Pete Chiarelli for my whole career. In fact, I’ll say right now, I don’t – I just don’t know what to make of our Army – I won’t know what to make of our Army, without Pete and Beth Chiarelli in it. I’m struggling with that, to tell you the truth. You have meant that much to Deanie and I personally, and to – and to our service.

But Pete is – was, first and foremost, a son. You heard that he’s the son of a soldier. You also know that his mother, Theresa, is back in Seattle, awaiting his arrival back. And you also know that he is moving back there specifically to care for his mother. He’s a great son. He’s a terrific husband to Beth, as we’ve watched them and admired them as they have worked through the 25 moves that the secretary of defense mentioned, deployments – all the things that we go through. He has always been a role model of what it means to balance your life and be a husband as well as a soldier.

A terrific father – and, you know, I don’t remember the youngsters growing up, although we were stationed together on occasion. But I can tell you that, having gotten to know them now that they’re young adults, they’re terrific young adults. And that’s indicative – that is the truest test of what it means to be a great father. He’s a great father. And Peter, Erin, and Patrick, and now the extended family, with Jen and Bryan and the grandchildren, you’re blessed to have Pete and Beth Chiarelli as the leaders of your family.

He’s an unbelievable friend. And I’ll just tell you, I was sick about a year ago and had to go through about seven weeks of treatment. And every week – every week, without fail – I got a greeting card from Pete Chiarelli telling me to hang in there. And I’ll never forget that.

He is a giant of a man in every way, inside and out, and I just couldn’t be prouder to call you my friend. Actually, I’ve been trying to figure out – I thought I had a distinctive walk. People tell me I have a distinctive walk. (Laughter.) But I actually think my walk is kind of normal compared to Pete Chiarelli. (Laughter.) Now, he actually did OK out here today keeping in step, and he looked about the same size as Dave Anders, and all that worked out fine.

But in the Pentagon – those of you that have seen him stalking the halls of the Pentagon – you’ll know that you can see Pete Chiarelli coming for corridors away – (laughter) – and know exactly that it’s him. And I finally got the image as I was getting ready for this – these remarks. The image – and it’s because he’s going back to the Pacific Northwest. Here’s the image – you’re going to agree with this – Paul Bunyan. (Laughter.)

That’s it, that’s it. Watch him next time, sort of slumped over, almost like he’s got a big old hatchet or axe on his back, hacking his way through the bureaucracy to make life better for soldiers and their families. There it is, Paul Bunyan. No nonsense, blue collar, Pete Chiarelli.

I’ll share just three memories – again, not about what he’s done, but how he did it. First of all, I’ll tell you that in the period before the end of the Cold War, Pete Chiarelli was known as one of the finest trainers in our Army, whether it was tank gunnery or maneuver warfare. I was in Friedberg, Germany. He was in Gelnhausen. And General John Galvin would constantly come and say to me, how come you’re not doing the things that Pete Chiarelli’s doing over there in Gelnhausen?

But he was widely known as one of the best trainers in our Army. And just to carry that forward, when his division was notified to come to Baghdad and take the place of the 1st Army Division that I was commanding, I got word that what he had done was taken his staff to Austin, Texas, to sit down with the town council – with the city council – and find out how to run a city. Because he knew he was coming back to Baghdad and had to kind of confront not just the threat, the enemy activities, but also, how do you run a darn city?

And only Pete Chiarelli, truthfully, in those days, would have thought to spend his time and prepare his staff in that way.

My second memory in that regard, in terms of his innovativeness, was when he got to Baghdad and realized that our command and control architectures were fundamentally flawed. And he was the champion of what is today a commonplace command and control structure called the Command Post of the Future, CPOF. That was Pete Chiarelli. He brought it to Baghdad; he worked out all the glitches, and fundamentally, as a division commander, drove the Army to the command and control architecture that we use today. Pete Chiarelli.

Shortly after that, he realized that he had to connect that architecture to the lowest tactical edge, because what was really important in that environment was learning from the bottom up. And so he championed what you now know today as TIGR, the Tactical Ground Reporting System, to get something in the hands of a squad leader that would allow him to build context from the bottom up. That was Pete Chiarelli.

And then finally, when he came back from war, he realized we had this enduring challenge with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress injury. That’s Pete Chiarelli. And he drove our Army, drove it to recognize the problem, to reduce the stigma, to confront it, and that was Pete Chiarelli. (Applause.)

Now, you know, I can’t say enough about his teammate, Beth. And again, I feel inadequate to the task, representing all these people to thank you both for what you’ve done.

But I will mention one moment, one memory I have of Beth, and that was at the Military Child Education Coalition, where she was down – I think it was in Nashville, Tennessee – herding all of these organizations, trying to get an awareness, an appreciation, and get actual programs put in place to confront the fact that we move our military children around and it becomes very challenging to knit together their education and their opportunities. And Beth Chiarelli was a huge champion for that. And she even got me to sing at this conference, and you know how hard that is. (Laughter.)

So here’s the bottom line. The enduring example of both Pete and Beth Chiarelli is that you have to live with a passion for something. The goal is not just to make a living, but to make a difference. And boy oh boy, did you two make a difference. You know, yesterday Pete was honored by something called a clap-out at the Pentagon, where hundreds of members of the Army staff formed a cordon from his office down to the Pentagon parking lot.

And what struck me was that this wasn’t organized by his executive officer, wasn’t organized by any other general officer. It was organized by the noncommissioned officers. And if that doesn’t tell you about Pete Chiarelli, you don’t know anything about Pete Chiarelli. So ladies and gentlemen, how about joining me in clapping out Pete and Beth Chiarelli? (Applause.)

And one last thing for the media – yeah, I can do this. I’m the chairman, see? This is for you. I want you to report that we have never had a finer man in uniform, in the uniform of this country, than Pete Chiarelli, and never a finer couple that Pete and Beth Chiarelli. Thank you very much. (Applause.)