USA — McChrystal Retires Amid Praise for Career

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2010 — Army Gen. Stan­ley A. McChrys­tal, who most recent­ly com­mand­ed all U.S. and inter­na­tion­al forces in Afghanistan, retired today in a cer­e­mo­ny here near his Fort McNair home

Distinguished Service Medal to U.S. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal
U.S. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, left, awards the Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Medal to U.S. Army Gen. Stan­ley A. McChrys­tal as he stands with is wife, Annie, dur­ing a retire­ment cer­e­mo­ny on Fort Les­ley J. McNair in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., July 23, 2010.
DoD pho­to by U.S. Air Force Mas­ter Sgt. Jer­ry D. Mor­ri­son
Click to enlarge

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates called McChrys­tal one of America’s great­est war­riors and a trea­sured friend and col­league.

“We bid farewell to Stan McChrys­tal today with pride and sad­ness,” Gates said. “Pride for his unique record as a man and sol­dier; sad­ness that our com­rade and his pres­ti­gious tal­ents are leav­ing us.

“This con­sum­mate ranger pos­sessed one of the sharpest and most inquis­i­tive minds in the Army,” the sec­re­tary con­tin­ued.

McChrystal’s con­tri­bu­tions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were ground­break­ing, Gates said, as the gen­er­al “employed every tool avail­able” to cre­ate suc­cess on the bat­tle­field.

“Over the past decade, no sin­gle Amer­i­can has inflict­ed more fear and more loss of life on our country’s most vicious and vio­lent ene­mies than Stan McChrys­tal,” he said. “Com­mand­ing spe­cial oper­a­tion forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, Stan was a pio­neer in cre­at­ing a rev­o­lu­tion in war­fare that fused intel­li­gence and oper­a­tions.”

And when vio­lence in Iraq seemed almost unstop­pable in 2006 and 2007, McChrys­tal and his spe­cial oper­a­tors all but “crushed al-Qai­da,” Gates said.

“It was a cam­paign that was well under­way before the surge, … when so many had giv­en up hope in our mis­sion there,” Gates said. “Stan McChrys­tal nev­er lost faith in his troop­ers, nev­er relent­ed, nev­er gave up on Iraq.

“And his efforts played a deci­sive part in the dra­mat­ic secu­ri­ty gains that now allow Iraq to move for­ward as a democ­ra­cy and draw­down U.S. forces there.”

Pen­ta­gon offi­cials called on McChrys­tal again last year, after decid­ing the mis­sion in Afghanistan need­ed “new think­ing, new ener­gy and new lead­er­ship,” Gates said. McChrys­tal was with­out a doubt the best leader for the job, he added.

“I want­ed the very best war­rior-gen­er­al in our armed forces for this fight,” Gates said. “I need­ed to be able to tell myself, the pres­i­dent and the troops that we had the very best pos­si­ble per­son in charge in Afghanistan. I owed that to the troops there and the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Gates also rec­og­nized McChrystal’s wife, Annie, and son, Sam, for their sup­port to the nation.

“Like so many Army fam­i­lies since 9/11 …, they have endured long sep­a­ra­tions from their hus­band and dad, and like so many fam­i­lies, they have done so with grace and resilience,” Gates said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said McChrys­tal is a true war­rior and pro­fes­sion­al, call­ing him one of the most expe­ri­enced and suc­cess­ful offi­cers in today’s Army.

His career has been unique and amaz­ing, Casey said, not­ing his var­i­ous assign­ments in spe­cial war­fare units, as well as posi­tions on the Joint Staff and as com­man­der of forces in Afghanistan.

“Stan has had a tru­ly remark­able career in both peace and war,” Casey said. “He has walked the career path of a war­rior, schol­ar and states­man.

“[McChrystal’s] oper­a­tional expe­ri­ences span the entire spec­trum of con­flict,” Casey con­tin­ued. “The truth is that Stan has done more to car­ry the fight to al-Qai­da since 2001 than any oth­er per­son in [the Defense Depart­ment], and pos­si­bly the coun­try.”

McChrys­tal was always admired by his troops, and always ded­i­cat­ed to them and his coun­try, Casey said. McChrys­tal leaves a lega­cy of ser­vice that will be emu­lat­ed for decades, he added.

“I can’t think of no offi­cer who’s had more impact on this country’s bat­tle against extrem­ism,” he said. “For 34 years, Stan McChrys­tal … his face has been marred by the dust and sweat of com­bat. He is a war­rior … our Army and our nation will deeply miss him.”

McChrys­tal resigned amid con­tro­ver­sy last month after Rolling Stone mag­a­zine pub­lished a high-pro­file arti­cle in which the gen­er­al and his aides made dis­parag­ing com­ments about top Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma nom­i­nat­ed Army Gen. David H. Petraeus for the job on June 23. Petraeus was con­firmed by the Sen­ate on June 30.

“This has the poten­tial to be an awk­ward, or even a sad occa­sion,” McChrys­tal said. “With my res­ig­na­tion, I left a mis­sion I feel strong­ly about. I end­ed a career I loved that began over 38 years ago, and I left unful­filled com­mit­ments I made to many com­rades in the fight.

“My ser­vice did not end as I would have wished,” he con­tin­ued. “Still Annie and I aren’t approach­ing the future with sad­ness, but with hope.”

McChrys­tal said his career has amassed some amaz­ing moments and mem­o­ries, but it’s the peo­ple he served with who he will remem­ber most. He not­ed the many offi­cers and enlist­ed sol­diers he rose through the ranks with, as well as civil­ians he worked with in Afghanistan.

“It’s always about the peo­ple,” he said. “It was about the sol­diers who were well trained; the young sergeants who emerged from the ranks with strength, dis­ci­pline, com­mit­ment and courage.

“To have shared so much with, and been so depen­dent on peo­ple of such courage, integri­ty and self­less­ness, taught me to believe,” he said.

None had more of an impact on McChrys­tal through­out his life and career than his wife, he said.

“She’s always been there when it mat­tered,” he said. The McChrys­tals are high school sweet­hearts who’ve been mar­ried for 33 years. “As we con­clude a career togeth­er, it’s impor­tant for you to know that she was there.

“She was there when my father com­mis­sioned me a sec­ond lieu­tenant of infantry, and she was wait­ing some months lat­er when I emerged from Ranger School,” he said. “As the years passed and the fight grew every more dif­fi­cult and dead­ly, Annie’s qui­et courage gave me strength I would nev­er oth­er­wise have found.”

McChrystal’s ser­vice spanned four decades. He assumed com­mand in Afghanistan in June 2009, fol­low­ing then-com­man­der Army Gen. David McKiernan’s res­ig­na­tion. Obama’s order for an addi­tion­al 30,000 troops to Afghanistan was based on McChrystal’s assess­ment of the war there.

Before serv­ing in Afghanistan, McChrys­tal was the direc­tor of the Joint Staff at the Pen­ta­gon. He also served as the com­man­der of Joint Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand at Fort Bragg, N.C., and its for­ward-deployed com­mand, where he led spe­cial oper­a­tion troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dur­ing his five-year com­mand with JSOC, he over­saw spe­cial oper­a­tions in suc­cess­ful mis­sions that cap­tured Sad­dam Hus­sein, killed al-Qai­da in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zar­qawi, as well as oth­er high-pro­file cap­ture-kill mis­sions.

McChrys­tal grad­u­at­ed from the U.S. Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my at West Point, N.Y., in 1976. He was com­mis­sioned as an infantry offi­cer, and spent most of his career com­mand­ing spe­cial oper­a­tions and air­borne infantry units.

As I leave the Army to those with respon­si­bil­i­ties to car­ry on, I’d say ser­vice in this busi­ness is tough and often dan­ger­ous,” McChrys­tal said. “If I had it to do over again, I’d do some things in my career dif­fer­ent­ly, but not many. I trust in peo­ple, and I would­n’t have had it any oth­er way.”

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