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

Presenter: General Victor Renuart Jr. March 23, 2007

Remarks By General Victor Renuart Jr. At The Changing Command Ceremony To Assume The Command Of Norad And Northcom, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado

GEN. RENUART: Thank you. Wow, I'm off script already. Tim Keating is -- has just hit the nail on a head. This is a sacred mission, and it's one that he's created a team here that is up to the challenge, and it's one that Jill and I look forward to continue to carry.

Secretary Gates, General Rick Hillier, Major Rivera and, of course, Tim and Wandalee, all the flag and general officers that are here today, past commanders, the community leaders, the elected officials, our friends from OSD that made the long journey all smiling to be far, far away from Washington, D.C. and, most importantly, the NORAD-NORTHCOM team. Thank you for honoring us here this morning.

You say thank you for being here to the troops, and they'll tell you, "Well, we didn't exactly get a vote." but I want to say how proud I am to see how sharp you look and to the chief for a great job of having this ceremony come together so well.

I need to say also thank you to the band. You don't see a lot of people here that look like they set this all up, but trust me, the Space wing and Air Force Space Command as our host and the dedicated team at NORAD and NORTHCOM put a lot of effort into preparing this ceremony. And then they put a lot of work into preparing it again. (Laughter.) Democracy is a wonderful thing, and as it plays out, the military is flexible, always ready to support and defend.

But I want to say thank you to all those people that put in such great effort to make this day happen. And unfortunately, I won't get the chance to meet each of you, but I hope over the coming years to have a chance to say hello and thank you personally.

As I begin, I'd also like to acknowledge the many people, as I said, that have made and remade travel plans to join us today. And I know if I try to mention each of you, every one of you, I'd miss somebody. And I can't afford to do that, so I'm going to speak in some general terms. Besides, Jill has just put me on the watch, I noticed, over there, so I need to keep it rolling.

Suffice it to say that every important phase of our adventure together is represented here today. My mom, who leads the pack, is sitting over there. She continues to be amazed that the kid who generated so many parent-teacher conferences -- (laughter) -- could somehow make it to this day. My sisters are here representing my siblings, two of my sisters. They had to put up with a big brother who was mostly a pain in the neck.

Jill's extended family are here today, and they've traveled from our nation's heartland to honor us with their presence. The very first Air Force family that took Jill and me under their wings are here today, our god-daughter, her mom and her older brother. They set a standard of Air Force family for us that we've continued over the years, and we're pleased to have them join us today.

I have fraternity brothers here, two of my college pledge class members. I've got cousins that I know well and cousins that I've renewed a friendship again after 30 or 40 years, have all joined us today. And that is truly humbling. Importantly, though, many of the Air Force officers and NCOs with whom I have had the privilege to serve are represented here by a number of you, and you honor our family to join us.

The secretary was kind enough to mention my joint experience, and I would be remiss if I didn't recognize some of the many members of other services that represent over 12 years of joint and combined experiences, from Desert Storm through Deny Flight, Southern Watch, Northern Watch, and OEF and OIF. Also a number of former bosses represented here today. All of you, all of you that I've talked about have really been my teachers, and I thank you for working hard on that piece of clay to turn it into something that's moderately representable today, and thank you for helping make that work.

I'd like to think all of you really are here just to wish us well in this new endeavor. And unfortunately, as we drove over, you looked at Pike's Peak and the Front Range, and you breathe this fresh mountain air, and you see the wonderful community that is family to this team; and you realize that the best you can hope for is that it's a tie. And at least you're here to pay tribute, but real more importantly, to make sure we know the family that you bring to the event today, and we certainly do that.

As I said in my confirmation hearing, we can never miss the opportunity to thank our military families for the service and sacrifice to the nation, and our family is really no different than any other military family. We'll move into our 27th home. It's amazing how that happens over time. And I think as we do that, I must express my pride, my gratitude and my debt to the three people that have really made today possible.

My mom's here, so I can attest this: that Jill got me through college. She has kept me grounded over these years; she has trade away her own opportunities to support the team; she has raised two great sons. And she's my best friend. And I love you.

Our two sons have also served their nation. 11 of their first 18 year have been spent overseas. As the secretary was kind to mention this morning, Ryan has three combat tours in combat rescue, OEF and OIF. Andrew, too, has served the nation -- 27 months in Senegal in the Peace Corps, also during OEF and OIF. If you don't think that puts a little pressure on moms, it's okay to send your husband away to war, but when you send your two sons into harm's way in different parts of the world under tough circumstances, that's pressure. In very different, but both in very meaningful ways, our two sons have made a difference, and both your mom and I are proud of you.

To Tim and Wandalee Keating, thanks so much for your friendship and your warm, warm welcome to the NORAD\NORTHCOM team. You leave today commands that have quietly and professionally conducted a mission that, as you said, Tim, by its nature cannot fail.

It also has to be something that is invisible and transparent to our nation, and you've built a great team that has done that so well. Your team has achieved it, and I'm impressed how you've molded two commands really into a single team.

Jill and I wish you the very best as you head literally this afternoon into the sun of the Pacific. PACOM could not ask for better leadership. You'll make a great team. You already have shown that. And we look forward to a close relationship with our PACM -- our PACAF and PACOM teammates as we tighten links in the defense of our nation. To both of you, aloha.

As I said, Jill has me on the watch, so I better not take too much longer. But I do want to say a couple words about the centerpiece of today's ceremony, and that is the men and women of the NORAD/NORTHCOM team. NATO's history -- I'm sorry; correction -- NORAD's history -- there's a Freudian slip from the past! NORAD's history is well-known, and its reputation is superb. And for nearly 50 years NORAD has provided air threat warning for North America.

And for nearly 50 years, the close partnership of the United States and Canada has made NORAD effective. Today it continues to grow. As the CDS mentioned, maritime warning will take on a more important role to us by the day.

We recognize and celebrate this special alliance that we have with our friends to the north. It's a special kinship and, as was mentioned, for me personally, a very close kinship. And we consider our shared and peaceful border a perfect metaphor for the relationship that -- comprised of two distinct yet joined partners.

It's also important to mention that at our southern border, we have another friend, and I want to take a moment to say thank you to the government of Mexico for the delegation that is here today. "Muchas gracias." We continue to share in ever progressive relationships with our friends and neighbors from Mexico, and it's a relationship with this storied nation that is continually evolving. We're excited to explore more opportunities. We look for opportunities for exercises and operations with our friends in Mexico in the future.

The collaboration that I've mentioned with both of these nations really does reinforce the security of our homeland, and that's the other part of this team, the NORAD -- of NORAD, the NORTHCOM primary charter. It will be a high priority for me. NORTHCOM's charter -- defending our homeland, providing defense support to our civil authorities -- is a huge role and, as I mentioned up front, cannot afford failure.

Working the interagency, collaboration with other combatant commanders, maintaining a close relationship with state officials, and understanding and supporting the train-and-equip challenges of our Reserve components all require constant attention and engagement. And you have my commitment to that.

NORTHCOM cannot afford to assume a way of victory. The stakes are just too high.

As the secretary said, we're engaged in a long struggle against violent extremists that seek to exploit any seams in our armor. Our job, this team's job is to mend those seams to strengthen the shield. And I know each member of the NORTHCOM team is committed to success, as am I.

Today, over 200,000 men and women are deployed as our nation's frontline in the war on terror, and we honor them today, and their families, and we pray for their safe return.

Mr. Secretary, I join a team at NORTHCOM and NORAD today that is proud to be your home team. Like our deployed brothers and sisters, we'll make our nation proud. And I want to express my appreciation to you and to the president for the confidence you've shown in nominating Jill and me for this command leadership opportunity.

Confucius once said, "The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come; when in a state of security, he does not forget the possibility of ruin; when all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus, his person is not in danger, but more importantly, his states and their clans are preserved."

NORAD and NORTHCOM will not rest, we will not forget. Thank you so much for honoring us today. (Applause.)

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