Cartwright Reflects on Four Decades of Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2011 — Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, today bid a cer­e­mo­ni­al farewell to the mil­i­tary he has served for near­ly 40 years in a cer­e­mo­ny at the Marine Bar­racks here.

Every­one who has ever joined the U.S. mil­i­tary, the gen­er­al said, real­izes they’d made a choice to serve their nation and to make a difference. 

“The beau­ty, at least for me, … was that I got to see things first­hand,” he said. 

Cartwright not­ed that he has wit­nessed racial inte­gra­tion, gen­der inte­gra­tion and lifestyle inte­gra­tion dur­ing his time in uniform. 

“Because of that diver­si­ty, we’re a bet­ter nation,” he said. 

As the Defense Depart­ment con­tin­ues to increase its diverse approach through inter­a­gency coop­er­a­tion and coali­tion oper­a­tions, it is devel­op­ing a tool and an advan­tage, he said. 

“We just have to embrace it and not be afraid of it,” the vice chair­man said. “It always leaves us better.” 

Cartwright said when he was a young offi­cer, a com­man­der he con­sid­ered one of the smartest peo­ple he’d ever met gave him the “in the are­na” pas­sage from a speech Theodore Roo­sevelt deliv­ered in 1910. 

Cartwright quot­ed from the pas­sage: “It is not the crit­ic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stum­bles, or where the doer of deeds could have done bet­ter. The cred­it belongs to the man who is actu­al­ly in the are­na, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiant­ly; who errs and comes up short … who knows the great enthu­si­asms, the great devo­tions; who spends him­self in a wor­thy cause; who at best knows in the end the tri­umph of high achieve­ment, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while dar­ing great­ly, so that his place shall nev­er be with those cold and timid souls who nei­ther know vic­to­ry nor defeat.” 

Cartwright said those words have guid­ed him through the years, and allowed him to find kin­dred spirits. 

The vice chair­man acknowl­edged that he is known as some­one who embraces tech­nol­o­gy. “That real­ly is more about how to find advan­tage for the warfight­er, how to find advan­tage” for the ser­vice mem­bers who use mil­i­tary equip­ment, he said. 

Cartwright said through the nation­al lab­o­ra­to­ries, the Defense Depart­ment and oth­er agen­cies, he has been able to find peo­ple who dare great­ly, “whether it was to shoot down a satel­lite or to take the night time away from the ene­my with night-vision gog­gles … [or] with radar.” 

“It was peo­ple that were will­ing to do this, peo­ple who were will­ing to look at things like body armor and … vehi­cle armor, to help keep and pre­serve the lives of our young sol­diers, sailors, air­men, Marines and Coast Guards­men,” he said. “Peo­ple who were will­ing to go to places and change the course of his­to­ry in places like Fal­lu­jah and Abot­tabad. Will­ing to enter into the arena.” 

His role has large­ly been to give those peo­ple oppor­tu­ni­ties and pro­tect them from fail­ing, he said. 

Cartwright said his advice to those in the are­na is, “Do the next right thing. Do not wor­ry about the crit­i­cism. Do not wor­ry about those who would be the crit­ics. Do what is right.” 

Mil­i­tary ser­vice teach­es that peo­ple have oblig­a­tions to each oth­er, Cartwright said: to vis­it the wound­ed, to com­fort the fam­i­lies of the fall­en, to attend the funer­als and hon­or the peo­ple killed fight­ing the nation’s wars. 

“Our moral oblig­a­tion does not end when we fin­ish active ser­vice; it does not end when we leave the ceme­tery,” he said. “We’re respon­si­ble for these peo­ple for life.” 

That com­mit­ment is not just for a bat­tle, or a tour of duty, or a mil­i­tary career, Cartwright said. 

“That is a moral oblig­a­tion this coun­try, and we as lead­ers, have to ensure that we take care of them all through their lives, and all through our own lives,” he said. 

Cartwright said he chal­lenges past, present and future lead­ers to nev­er for­get that obligation. 

“Today, my last salute is in hon­or of all who have served, all who are serv­ing and all who will serve,” he said. 

Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta said dur­ing the farewell trib­ute that Cartwright, known as “Hoss,” is an extra­or­di­nary pub­lic ser­vant and an extra­or­di­nary Marine. 

“As the depart­ment con­fronts the strate­gic and insti­tu­tion­al chal­lenges that lie ahead, we will be a much stronger coun­try, a much stronger Amer­i­ca, because of his out­stand­ing tenure as vice chair­man,” the sec­re­tary said. 

Cartwright chal­lenged posi­tions and was not afraid of a con­trary view, the sec­re­tary said. 

“Our fel­low cit­i­zens, and future gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans, are safer because of your work,” Panet­ta said to Cartwright. “On their behalf, I thank you for the great ser­vice that you have per­formed for this nation. The mea­sure of any indi­vid­ual in life is whether you make a dif­fer­ence. And Hoss Cartwright made a difference.” 

Cartwright was com­mis­sioned a sec­ond lieu­tenant in the Marine Corps in Novem­ber 1971. He com­plet­ed naval flight offi­cer train­ing in April 1973 and grad­u­at­ed from naval avi­a­tor train­ing in Jan­u­ary 1977. He has pilot­ed the F‑4, OA‑4, and F/A‑18. He is a dis­tin­guished grad­u­ate of the Air Com­mand and Staff Col­lege at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and holds a master’s degree in nation­al secu­ri­ty and strate­gic stud­ies from the Naval War Col­lege, New­port, R.I. The gen­er­al com­plet­ed a fel­low­ship with Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Technology. 

Cartwright has com­mand­ed 1st Marine Air­craft Wing and U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand, and has served on the Joint Staff as deputy direc­tor for force struc­ture and require­ments and as direc­tor for force struc­ture, resources and assessment. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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