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American Forces Press Service

Bush, Gates Praise Outgoing Chairman

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

FORT MYER, Va., Oct. 1, 2007 – President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today praised retiring Marine Gen. Peter Pace as a gifted leader and an advisor who used sound judgment and who spoke with candor.

Bush and Gates spoke during an armed forces hail and farewell ceremony as Pace transferred the office of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen.

“There's something about General Pete Pace that makes believers out of nearly everyone,” Bush said. “That includes the men who served with him in Vietnam and whom he led during some of the most vicious urban combat in American military history. It includes the troops he led in Somalia who looked to him for resolve and guidance during difficult times.

“It includes Marines who look with pride on the first of their rank to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Bush continued. “It includes two secretaries of Defense who relied on the general during tough and trying times. And it includes a president who has counted in General Pace's candor and sound judgment during some of the most difficult times in our country's history.”

The president said Pace has shown a quiet strength during the difficult times of the war on terror. “It is a strength that has won the admiration of friends and peers,” Bush said. “It is a strength built on the love and support of a strong and devoted wife, Lynne, and their family, Peter, Lynsey and Tiffany. It is a strength that gave General Pace solace in the tough and sometimes bitter world of Washington, D.C. It helped him bring selflessness to a city filled with egos and a dignity to a political process that might have worn down a lesser man.”

Gates said that to understand Gen. Peter Pace, one has to understand 2nd Lt. Peter Pace -- a new platoon leader who joined Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, in Vietnam at the height of the Tet Offensive in 1968. Pace took command during the Battle for Hue City, one of the most concentrated and deadly battles of the Vietnam War.

“The first thing Pete did was call together the squad leaders and say to them, ‘My name is Pete Pace, and I have no idea what I'm doing. If you guys will help me out and talk to me, I promise that I will listen,’” Gates said.

“Barney Barnes was one of Pete's squad leaders,” the secretary continued. “He recalled, ‘Some officers come in and they demand respect. General Pace didn't do that. He earned our respect. He earned it by loving us, caring for us, teaching us, making sure that we were the best Marines that we possibly could be.’”

Marines died following Pace’s orders, Gates said. “Many years later, of those men and of that experience, Pete said, ‘It was their blood that gave me a debt that I can never fully repay.’”

All of this works to drive Pace, Gates said. “The one thing that sticks with me is that although General Pace is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the most powerful military officer in the world, he still cares for everyone in our armed forces as if he were still their platoon leader,” the secretary said. “Whenever we at the highest levels are faced with a decision, no matter how big or small, he will always ask aloud the question that has guided him throughout his career: ‘How will this impact Private First Class Pace and Mrs. Pace?’ In General Pace, the men and women of the armed forces have had a leader who never lost sight of the individual or the troops on the frontlines.”

Pace has carried himself with humility, dignity and grace, Gates said. He works the same way as chairman as he did when he joined Golf Company, “and incurred, as he said, a debt he could never fully repay.”

“Pete, I believe I speak for everyone in the nation when I say, your debt has been more than repaid,” the secretary said.

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