USA — Keep Focus on Troops, Mullen Tells Joint Forces Command

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 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.”

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

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