Gen. Dempsey's Remarks at the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Transition
As Delivered by General Martin E. Dempsey , Joint Base Andrews, Md. Friday, August 10, 2012
GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY: Well, it's a great honor to be here to speak at this ceremony to -- and to reflect on the service of Norty and Suzie and the excitement of Mark and Betty as they get ready to take the -- take the reins -- I know that's a ground metaphor, but take the reins of the Air Force.
You know, it's my great privilege to be speaking not just for myself, but on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That's that happy group sitting over there in the front who are probably wondering what's piling up back in their offices. But they're a great group to serve with. And Norty, one of the things I'll tell you right up front is it has been an absolute pleasure to have you on this Joint Chiefs team. And Mark, we're excited to have you on the team as well.
You know, this is -- for those of you that put this ceremony on, this is really an Olympic-quality ceremony to -- you know, it occurs to me that while we're here today, over in London, there's a group of young American athletes who are standing on a podium watching that flag raised and feeling for a moment in their lives the pride of representing their country. So I can only imagine what pride Suzie and Norty must have felt, because it's been a reflection of an entire lifetime, literally a lifetime of service. So I hope you -- I hope that moment washed over you and will continue to wash over you.
And Mark and Betty, you know, you've got to be excited about what, you know, we know you will accomplish with the greatest Air Force in the history of mankind.
You know, as we stand here today, the sun is just about getting ready to set in Afghanistan, and on the ground and in the air, the United States Air Force is watching over those and contributing to accomplishing our missions there. They're running transportation air bridges, they're flying combat air patrols and just simply getting it done in a way that I think we all ought to be extraordinarily proud about.
You've built a hell of an Air Force, Mr. Secretary and Norty, and Mark, I know that you will continue to build it to be what it needs to be for the nation.
So some of you know that I'm a -- I love to do this "This Week in History" thing, so you'll be happy to know that on this week in history, I discovered that in 2010, JetBlue flight attendant Steve Slater decided to quit his job by activating the chute off of the side of his airplane and jumping down it after grabbing two beers off of the flight attendant's cart. Now if that's not the perfect image to use here at the transition of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force -- (laughter) -- I just don't know what is.
No, actually, I do put a lot of stock in images, you know, those kind of mental pictures we all carry around to remember what's important. And so I do want to share a serious one with you. And that is a young Air Guardsman I met up in -- not so young, actually -- Master Sergeant Roger Sparks up in the Alaska Air Guard, who I just met upon his return from Afghanistan where, as a parajumper, he had lowered himself from a Black Hawk Helicopter, much like the one you see in the back rear, 12 times into the Hindu Kush, you know, a mountain the size of Pike's Peak in Colorado, to pull a squad of Army soldiers off the side of that mountain who were under fire.
And he pulled eight of them to safety. He pulled all 12, actually, but eight of them survived. Four of them died in his arms. The wire rope on which he suspended himself through this ordeal was struck three times by machine-gun fire.
So, you know, meeting this master sergeant, I asked myself, where do we get these young Airmen, men and women, who serve so faithfully and so courageously?
And the answer is actually self-evident. We get them from America's cities, towns and villages. They're us. And then we inspire them to be more than they think they can be, not for themselves but for their country. That's the kind of Air Force that Norty and Suzie have nurtured, have encouraged and have loved, not for themselves but for their country.
Now, you will always be remembered because you always put what was best for the nation and the families who serve and defended first well before your own personal well-being. You know, as the story goes, Norty and Suzie were actually looking forward to retiring after Transportation Command, but the Air Force and our country needed Norty's character and his leadership at a critical juncture. He is a leader's leader among the Joint Chiefs. He was truly the right person at the right time to be our nation's flight lead.
Norty often reminds us that it's not about the aircraft or about the weapons systems or the space or cybercapabilities. It's about the people, all of them, men and women in our nation's Air Force that Norty has led with extraordinary honor: the mobility crews delivering supplies, wherever they're needed, from humanitarian crisis to combat zones; the bombers crews, delivering air power on demand anytime anywhere; the fighters delivering close-air support when their brothers and sisters on the ground needed it most; the medical teams delivering our wounded from the clutches of illness and injury; the intelligence professionals keeping eyes, ears and mind on a determined enemy; then the EOD personnel, air battle managers, maintainers, defenders, logisticians and civilians.
Norty Schwartz has forged an enduring legacy as an Airman, a mentor and a leader. But I believe that the most important of his achievements is that he inspired trust within the Air Force, among his fellow service chiefs, within and across our government, and with our allies and partners.
I predict that in a moment Norty's going to stand up here and give most of the credit to those who served around him. I'd like to mention one in particular who deserves special recognition, and that of course is Suzie. Throughout their career together, Suzie has been an equally inspiring, all-in wingman to Norty and to the entire Air Force family. She often says, “Let's figure out how we can do it better.” What I'd like to say to you today, Suzie, is that it is because of you that it has become better. Thank you for making such a difference for our military families everywhere.
On behalf of the Joint Chiefs, I want you to know that it's been a tremendous privilege to serve with you both. We all deeply appreciate how welcoming you've been to us and how deeply we value your wise counsel.
Some may wonder what Norty's future holds. Now, few know that he sang choir at the United States Air Force Academy, and some of you know my proclivity for song. So I think there may be a demand for Norty and Marty's greatest hits. (Laughter.) But we need to come up with a good name first -- maybe the Jersey Boys; that would work, wouldn't it? Deanie actually suggested "Two Shades of Grey" -- (laughter) -- I'm not really seized with that idea.
And I don't know if Mark Welsh can carry a tune, but anyone who knows Mark knows that he's ready to carry our Air Force to the next level, and we're excited to have him here.
A seasoned combat pilot with extensive experience around the globe, Mark is also a veteran of the interagency and interservice battlefields. He's a deep thinker, a lifelong learner and one of the most respected leaders in our military today. And Betty is one of those spouses that inspires confidence in everyone she meets.
You know, the message is always important in whatever we do. And sometimes it's most important how we communicate it. Mark is actually something of a YouTube sensation himself. If you haven't seen his speech from last fall at the Air Force Academy -- or if you have seen it, you'll know what I'm talking about. Both Mark and Betty are great role models in their own right. But I believe that the selection of Team Welsh to lead the Air Force is the message. It says where and how we want our Air Force and our nation to go into the future. And I don't know anyone more ready to take the stick from Norty and Suzie, nobody better ready than Mark and Betty.
Our nation has placed its trust in you both, and so have we. We all look forward to facing the future together with you and Betty, and we look forward to having you move in as our next-door neighbors.
God bless the Schwartzes as they continue their lives together, and God bless Mark and Betty as you take the helm. And most important, God bless America. Thank you. (Applause.)