WASHINGTON, May 19, 2010 — Navy Adm. James Winnefeld accepted command of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command from Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., today, succeeding retiring Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr.
Renuart has served almost 40 years in uniform. Winnefeld, a naval aviator, comes to the job from service as the director of strategic plans and policy on the Joint Staff.
Winnefeld noted he served with Canadian forces in Afghanistan and said he looks forward to serving with them again at NORAD.
Gates described Renuart as a decorated aviator, successful commander and proven strategic visionary. The general served as the secretary’s senior military assistant when Gates took office in December 2006, and the secretary called Renuart the logical choice to lead the men and women of Northcom.
“Realizing that his mission was to provide robust, complex and swift support to civil and military authorities with little to no notice, he used ‘anticipate’ as the watch word for the command,” Gates said during the ceremony. “By doing so, he created an innovative environment that seeks to identify and counter threats before they come to pass. His forward thinking has permeated this command, as evidenced by its winning the 2009 Joint Meritorious Unit Award.”
During Renuart’s command tour, Northern Command flew more than 55,000 Noble Eagle sorties in defense of the homeland. The command oversaw evacuation of 12,000 persons and directly saved more than 400 during hurricanes Ike and Gustav and supported other federal agencies to prepare for California wildfires, two national political conventions, and three hurricanes – all within a two-week period.
The command also is partnering with Mexican military and civil leaders to assist them in battling the drug cartels under the auspices of the Merida Initiative. The command also worked with U.S. Southern Command to provide an aerial lifeline to Haiti in the wake of the horrific earthquake in January.
Renuart thanked the secretary for his support. He thanked the Canadian allies for their help and cooperation, and he thanked Mexican authorities for their response to a shared threat, noting that relationships are at the core of the command’s successes.
Gates said the nation is fortunate to have in Winnefeld “another proven leader and warrior ready to lead this vital organization.”
Winnefeld served in two fighter squadrons and instructed at the Navy Fighter Weapons School. He led the USS Enterprise through Operation Enduring Freedom immediately after the 9/11 attacks.
“As a carrier strike group commander, he supported Operation Iraqi Freedom and conducted maritime security missions in the Persian Gulf,” Gates said. “Most recently, he was the director of strategic plans and policy for the Joint Staff. With this singular resume, I can think of no better officer to assume the vital duties of defending our nation, responding to natural disasters when called upon, and partnering with Canada, Mexico and our Caribbean neighbors in securing our borders and sovereignty.”
Winnefeld recognized the commands’ accomplishments and said he was looking forward to becoming part of the team.
“While I know I need to listen and learn, I join this great team with a lot of energy and ideas,” he said. “There are any doors of opportunity open to these two commands, and we will step through them in due course. In so doing, we will not forget our American and Canadian colleagues serving together overseas. They and others from like-minded nations are our first line of defense.”
Citing a connection between those who serve on the front lines and the NORAD and Northcom missions, Winnefeld recognized two soldiers in the audience from nearby Fort Carson who are recovering from wounds they suffered in combat, as well as “Gold Star” family members who have lost loved ones on deployment who were at the ceremony.
“When one of these devoted young men and women is wounded or lost in action, it’s not an isolated event far away,” he said. “There’s a clear connection between what these very special people did and do over there and what we do over here.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)