Archive for July, 2010

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TRANSCRIPT OF SEC GATES AND GEN MCCHRYSTAL’s REMARKS AT FT. MCNAIR

July 27, 2010

TRANSCRIPT OF SEC GATES AND GEN MCCHRYSTAL’s REMARKS AT FT. MCNAIR

(UNCLASSIFIED)

Presenter: Secretary Of Defense Robert M. Gates, Army Chief Of Staff

General George W. Casey and General Stanley A. McChrystal July 23,

2010

SEC. GATES:  Well, first off, I would tell you that the weather here

today is worse than in Jakarta.

We gather today to say farewell to a treasured friend and colleague

and to pay tribute to one of the finest men at arms this country has

ever produced.

There are many distinguished guests and VIPs here today but none so

distinguished and none so important to General McChrystal as his wife,

Annie and son, Sam.

Like so many Army families since 9/11 and especially families in the

special operations community, they have endured long separations from

their husband and dad.  And like so many families, they have done so

with grace and resilience.  Our nation is deeply in your debt.

We bid farewell to Stan McChrystal today with pride and sadness.

Pride for his unique record as a man and a soldier. Sadness that our

comrade and his prodigious talents are leaving us.

Looking back at the totality of Stan McChrystal’s life and career, it

seems appropriate that he ended up in the special operations world, as

virtually nothing about this man could be considered ordinary.

Even as he rose to the highest ranks of the service, he retained his

trademark humility and remarkably low requirements in his trappings,

tastes and what we at the Pentagon call personal maintenance.

He had little use for amenities that tend to grow up around the rear

echelon, much to the chagrin of a few of his ISAF colleagues.  To

Stan, fast food counted as fine dining, but neither fine dining nor

beer gardens had any place in his war zone.

In spite of or, perhaps, because of his no-nonsense approach to war

fighting, Stan enjoyed a special bond with his troops. They respected

his devotion to them as well as to the mission.  And as evidenced by

all the uniforms here this evening, they remain just as devoted to

him.

That’s because Stan never forgot about the troops most often in harm’s

way.  Always keeping in mind the frontline World War II soldier quoted

by Stephen Ambrose, “Any son of a bitch behind my foxhole is rear

echelon.”

His fearsome exercise, sleeping and eating routines are legendary.  I

get tired and hungry just reading about them.

At the same time, this consummate Ranger possessed one of the sharpest

and most inquisitive minds in the Army.  A scholar who earned

fellowships to Harvard and the Council on Foreign Relations, a

voracious reader who, as one of his friends told a reporter, was prone

to spending his free time wandering around old bookstores and reading

about what he called “weird things” — stuff like Shakespeare.

The attacks of September 11 and the wars that followed would call on

every ounce of General McChrystal’s intellect, skill and

determination.  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.

Commanding special operations forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, Stan was

a pioneer in creating a revolution in warfare that fused intelligence

and operations.  He employed every tool available, high-tech and low,

signals, intelligence, HUMINT and others in new and collaborative

ways.

As a lieutenant general, he went out on night missions with his teams,

subjecting himself to their hardships and dangers. After going on one

operation that resulted in a fire fight, some of his British comrades

awarded Stan the distinction of being the highest-paid rifleman in the

United States Army.

Night after night, intercept by intercept, cell by cell, Stan and his

forces first confronted and then crushed al-Qaeda in Iraq.  It was a

campaign that was well under way before the surge when the violence

seemed unstoppable and when so many had given up hope in our mission

there.

Stan McChrystal never lost faith with 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 us to draw down U.S. forces there.

Last year when it became clear to me that our mission in Afghanistan

needed new thinking, new energy and new leadership, there was no doubt

in my mind who that new leader should be.  I wanted the very best

warrior general in our armed forces for this fight.  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 to the American people.

And when President Obama and his national security team deliberated on

the way forward in Afghanistan, General McChrystal provided his expert

and best unvarnished military advice.  And once we all agreed on the

new strategy, General McChrystal embraced it and carried out the

president’s orders with the brilliance and devotion that characterize

every difficult mission that he has taken on and accomplished

throughout his career.

Over the last year, General McChrystal laid the groundwork for success

and the achievement of our national security objectives in that part

of the world.  I know the Afghan government and people are grateful

for what he accomplished in a year as ISAF commander and the lives of

innocent Afghans saved, the territory freed from the grip of the

Taliban, for the new vigor and sense of purpose he brought to the

international military effort there.

As he now completes a journey that began on a West Point parade field

nearly four decades ago, Stan McChrystal enters this next phase of his

life to a respite richly earned.  He does so with the gratitude of the

nation he did so much to protect, with the reverence of the troops he

led at every level, with his place secure as one of America’s greatest

warriors.  (Applause.)

MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, General Stanley A. McChrystal.  (Applause.)

GEN. MCCHRYSTAL:  This is frustrating.  I spent a career waiting to

give a retirement speech and lie about what a great soldier I was.

Then people show up who were actually there.  It proves what Doug

Brown taught me long ago; nothing ruins a good war story like an

eyewitness.

To show you how bad it is, I can’t even tell you I was the best player

in my little league because the kid who was the best player is here

tonight.  In case you’re looking around, he’s not a kid anymore.

But to those here tonight who feel the need to contradict my memories

with the truth, remember I was there too.  I have stories on all of

you, photos on many, and I know a Rolling Stone reporter.  (Laughter.)

 (Applause.)

Look, this has the potential to be an awkward or even a sad occasion.

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, commitments I hold

sacred.

My service did not end as I would have wished, and there are

misperceptions about the loyalty and service of some dedicated

professionals that will likely take some time but I believe will be

corrected.

Still, Annie and I aren’t approaching the future with sadness but with

hope and iPhones.  And my feelings for more than 34 years I spent as

an Army officer are a combination of surprise that any experience

could have been as rich and fulfilling as mine was and gratitude for

the comrades and friends we were blessed with.

That’s what I feel.  And if I fail to communicate that effectively

tonight, I’ll simply remind you that Secretary Gates once told me I

was a modern Patton of strategic communications.  (Laughter.)  Fair

point.

So if we laugh tonight, it doesn’t mean all these years have not been

important to me.  It means the opposite; that every day and every

friend were gifts I treasure and I need to celebrate.

But first, I need to address two questions that we’ve been asked often

lately.  The first is:  What are you going to do?  Actually, Annie is

the one who’s asking me that.  I’m thinking I’d be a good fashion

consultant and spokesman for Gucci — (laughter) — but they haven’t

called.

The other question is always asked a bit tentatively.  How are you and

Annie doing?  We did spend some years apart, but we’re doing well.

And I am carrying some of what I learned into retirement.

First, Annie and I are reconnecting.  And now, we’re up on Skype with

each other.  Of course, we never did that all the years I was 10,000

miles away, but now we can connect by video link when we’re 15 feet

apart.  And I think she really likes that. (Laughter.)

I was so enthused I tried using Skype for a daily family VTC —

(laughter) — where I could get updates and pass out guidance, but

there’s some resistance to flatter and faster in the McChrystal

household.

The same is true for the tactical directive I issued soon after my

return.  It’s reasonable guidance:  One meal a day, early-morning PT,

the basics of a good family life.  (Laughter.)

But I’ve gotten a few night letters, and Annie’s stocking up on

ammonium nitrate fertilizer — (laughter) — which is strange since

our new yard is smaller than this podium.

Although the insurgency is relatively small — one woman — she’s

uninterested in reintegration.  (Laughter.)  I assess the situation as

serious and, in many ways, deteriorating.  (Laughter.)

Mr. Secretary, look at her.  I’m thinking at least 40,000 troops.

(Laughter.)  (Applause.)

Let me thank everyone for being here.  This turnout is truly humbling.

 Here tonight are my wife and son, my four brothers, two nephews,

mentors, comrades from countless phases of my career, and some special

guests whose service and sacrifice are impossible to describe with

words.

But because this crowd is pretty big, for good order and discipline,

I’ve divided you all into four groups.  Please remember your group

number.  (Laughter.)

Group 1 are all the people who accepted responsibility for making this

ceremony work from the planners to the soldiers on the field.  My

apologies for all the time you spend in the heat.  You’re special

people.  And in my mind, you also represent soldiers all over the

world.  You have my sincere appreciation.

The second group — (applause).  The second group is distinguished

servants of all nations who have taken time from your often-crushing

schedules to be here.  And thanks for your years of support and

friendship.  I got you out of the office early on Friday.

Group 3 are warriors of all ranks, and that includes many who don’t

wear a uniform but defend our nation with whom I have shared aircraft,

VTCs, remote outposts, frustrations, triumphs, laughs and a common

cause for many years.  You are not all here.  Some of you are deployed

and in the fight.  Others rest across river in Arlington.  Most of the

credit I’ve received actually belongs to you.  It has been your

comradeship that I have considered the greatest honor of my career.

Finally, Group 4 is all those who’ve heard we’re having two kegs of

beer in the backyard after my ceremony.  This group includes a number

of my classmates from West Point, old friends, most of the warriors

from Group 3, and some others who defy accurate description.  Anyone

already carrying a plastic cup might be considered the vanguard of

Group 4.  (Laughter.) Everyone here today is invited to join.

To Secretary Gates, I want to express my personal thanks, certainly,

for your generous remarks but more for your wisdom and leadership

which I experienced firsthand in each of my last three jobs.  Your

contribution to the nation and to the force is nothing short of

historic.

Similarly, I want to thank the many leaders, civilian and military, of

our nation beginning with President Obama for whom and with whom I was

honored to serve.  Whether elected, appointed or commissioned, the

common denominator of selfless service has been inspiring.

As COM ISAF, I was provided a unique opportunity to serve alongside

the professionals of 46 nations under the leadership of NATO.  We were

stronger for the diversity of our force, and I’m better for the

experience.

My thanks, also, to the leadership and people of Afghanistan for their

partnership, hospitality and friendship.  For those who are tempted to

simplify their view of Afghanistan and focus on the challenges ahead,

I counter with my belief that Afghans have courage, strength and

resiliency that will prove equal to the task.

My career included some amazing moments and memories, but it is the

people I’ll remember.  It was always about the people.  It was about

the soldiers who are well-trained but, at the end of the day, act out

of faith in their leaders and each other; about the young sergeants

who emerge from the ranks with strength, discipline, commitment and

courage.

As I grew older, the soldiers and sergeants of my youth grew older as

well.  They became the old sergeants, long-service professionals whose

wisdom and incredible sense of responsibility for the mission and for

our soldiers is extraordinary.

And the sergeants major — they were a national treasure.  They mold

and maintain the force and leaders like me.  They have been my

comrade, confidante, constructive critic, mentor and best friend.

A little more than a year ago on a single e-mail, Command Sergeant

Major Mike Hall came out of retirement, leaving a job, his son and his

amazing wife Brenda to join me in Afghanistan.  To Mike, I could never

express my thanks.  To Brenda, I know after all these years, I owe

you.  I also love you.

To true professionals like Sergeants Major Rudy Valentine, Jody Nacy,

Steve Cuffie, CW Thompson, Chris Craven, Jeff Mellinger and Chris

Farris, your presence here today is proof that, when something is

truly important, like this ceremony, you’re on hand to make sure I

don’t screw it up.

I’ve been blessed with the presence of old friends throughout my

career, friendships that began long ago at West Point, Forts Benning,

Bragg, Lewis or countless other locations and shared years of Army

life, moving vans, kids, laughs, disappointments, and each other’s

successes which grew into bonds that became critical on the

battlefield.

I treasure a note I received during a particularly tough time in

Afghanistan in 2007 from fellow commander, Dave Rodriguez, that quoted

Sherman’s confidence that, if he ever needed support, he knew his

friend Grant would come to his aid if alive. Serving with people who

say and mean such words is extraordinary.

I served with many.  Many of you are here tonight.  And not all the

heroes are comrades are in uniform.  In the back of a darkened

helicopter over Kunar, Afghanistan, in 2004, a comrade in blue jeans

whose friendship I cherish to this day passed me a note.  Scribbled on

a page torn from a pocket notebook, the note said, “I don’t know the

Ranger Creed, but you can count on me to always be there.”  He lived

up to his promise many times over.

To have shared so much with and been so dependent on people of such

courage, physical and moral, integrity and selflessness taught me to

believe.

Annie’s here tonight.  No doubt she walked the 50 feet from our front

door in cute little Italian shoes of which we have an extensive

collection.  (Laughter.)  In Afghanistan, I once considered using

Annie’s shoe purchases as an argument to get Italy to send additional

forces.  (Laughter.)  But truth be known, I have no control over that

part of the McChrystal economy. (Laughter.)

But she’s here like she’s always been there when it mattered.  Always

gorgeous.  For three and a half years, she was my girlfriend then

fiancée and, for over 33 years, she’s been my wife.

For many years, I’ve joked, sometimes publicly, about her lousy

cooking, terrifying closets, demolition derby driving and addiction to

M&M candy, which is all true.  But as we conclude a career together,

it’s important for you to know she was there.

She was there when my father commissioned me a second lieutenant of

infantry and was waiting some months later when I emerged from Ranger

School.  Together, we moved all we owned in my used Chevrolet Vega to

our first apartment at Fort Bragg.  The move, with our first days in

our $180-a-month apartment, was the only honeymoon I was able to give

her, a fact she has mentioned a few times since.

Annie always knew what to do.  She was gracious when she answered the

door at midnight in her nightgown to fight Sergeant Emo Holtz, a huge

mortarman, carrying a grocery bag of cheap liquor for a platoon party

I’d hastily coordinated that evening and not told Annie about

following a Friday night jump.  I got home not long after to find

Annie making food for assembling paratroopers.  Intuitively, Annie

knew what was right and quietly did it.

With 9/11, she saw us off to war and patiently supported the families

of our fallen with stoic grace.  As the years passed and the fight

grew ever more difficult and deadly, Annie’s quiet courage gave me

strength I would never otherwise have found.

It’s an axiom in the Army that soldiers write the checks but families

pay the bills.  And war increases both the accuracy of that statement

and the cost families pay.

In a novel based on history, Steven Pressfield captured poignantly

just how important families were and, I believe, are today. Facing an

invading Persian army under King Xerxes, a coalition of Greek states

sent a small force to buy time by defending the pass at Thermopylae

and were led by 300 special, selected Spartans.  The mission was

desperate and death for the 300 certain.

Before he left to lead them, the Spartan king, Leonidas, explained to

one of the Spartan wives how he had selected the 300 from an entire

army famed for its professionalism, courage and dedication to duty.

“I chose them not for their valor, lady, but for that of their women.

Greece stands now upon her most perilous hour.  If she saves herself,

it will not be at the gates.  Death alone awaits us and our allies

there but later in battles yet to come by land and sea.

“Then Greece, if the gods will it, will preserve herself.  Do you

understand this, lady?  Well, now, listen, when the battle is over,

when the 300 have gone to death, then all Greece will look to the

Spartans to see how they bear it.  But who, lady, will the Spartans

look to?  To you.  To you and the other wives and mothers, sisters and

daughters of the fallen.

“If they behold your hearts riven and broken with grief, they too will

break and Greece will break with them.  But if you bear up, dry eyed,

not alone enduring your loss but seizing it with contempt for its

agony and embracing it as the honor that it is in truth, then Sparta

will stand and all Greece will stand behind her.

“Why have I nominated you, lady, to bear up beneath this most terrible

of trials, you and your sisters of the 300?  Because you can.”

To all who wear no uniform but give so much, sacrifice so willingly

and serve as such an example to our nation and each other, my thanks.

As I leave the Army, to those with responsibility to carry on, I’d

say, service in this business is tough and often dangerous.  It

extracts a price for participation, and that price can be high.

It is tempting to protect yourself from the personal or professional

costs of loss by limiting how much you commit, how much of belief and

trust in people, and how deeply you care.  Caution and cynicism are

safe, but soldiers don’t want to follow cautious cynics.  They follow

leaders who believe enough to risk failure or disappointment for a

worthy cause.

If I had it to do over again, I’d do some things in my career

differently but not many.  I believed in people, and I still believe

in them.  I trusted and I still trust.  I cared and I still care.  I

wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Winston Churchill said we make a living by what we get, but we make a

life by what we give.  To the young leaders of today and tomorrow,

it’s a great life.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

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Fucking British Open

July 20, 2010

I think the best part about the British Open was listening to Ian McShane do the voice overs.  I had a really hard time not hearing him say the words ‘pussy,’ ‘cocksucker,’ and ‘fuck’ every other word.

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Ian McShane was the main character in ‘Deadwood,’ a HBO western with some of the foulest language you’ve ever heard in surround sound – he was also the voice of the bad guy in ‘Kung Fu Panda,’ but in that show most of the foul language came from Dustin Hoffman.)

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Army Navy Country Club determined to mimic CaddyShack

July 13, 2010

Just when I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to write about, I stumbled upon this little beauty on the Washington Post website:  

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/12/AR2010071205168.html 

It seems some members of the Army Navy Country Club have got their camis in a bunch over a proposed public bike path that would infringe upon the outskirts of the otherwise private land in exchange for their new clubhouse being allowed to violate local zoning laws by being 20 feet taller than is currently allowed.  Personally, I couldn’t give two craps about a bike path or the Army Navy Country Club, but there were these two quotes from the article that really made me laugh: 

Last week, the normally staid country club was roiled by controversy when 14 of its members sued the club’s leaders, saying that they cut an inappropriate deal with the county for the bike path — or “hell’s canyon,” as one called it — without a vote from its members, which they say violates the club’s bylaws. 

“They risked their lives in Iraq and can’t even get a vote at their own country club,” one supporter said. 

Benjamin Chew, an attorney for the “disgruntled generals,” said that his clients think the entire club, which includes 2,400 local members, should be allowed to decide the matter. 

“All our clients want is due process and a vote. That’s as American as it gets,” Chew said. 

It’s amazing how quickly the, ‘I served in Iraq,’ argument gets trotted out for something as trivial as a bike path.  Especially given how minor the proposed change actually is and what they’re getting in return!  Take a look at the map from the article and the google satellite shot; the path barely touches the property! 

A nice little path through the woods on the outskirts of the property in exchange for the clubhouse being allowed to violate zoning laws? Not on my watch!

Do you really want to downplay the importance and meaning of actually having served in the military by tying it to the development of your country club?  It’s kinda like a variation on Godwin’s Law (The longer an argument lasts, the more likely someone will make a reference to Nazis):  The longer an argument lasts, the more likely someone will invoke a reference to having served in Iraq.  

Here’s another good quote: 

Once the word gets out to the younger generation there is a secluded place to come and visit and have some fun, you can bet they’re going to be there,” retired Navy Capt. Louis Kriser said at a recent public hearing. “Gangs. Rivals. Hazards to pedestrians coming in and out. . . . I can see The Washington Post: ‘Golf Ball From Army Navy Country Club Fifth Hole Hits Baby.’  

Gangs?  Rivals?  Hooligans?  What is this?  Caddyshack?  If so, which General is Bill Murray?  I’ll bet it’s McChrystal! 

From left to right: General Mattis, General McChrystal, General Petraeus, Admiral Mullen

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Coffee Drinkers

July 12, 2010

I saw a guy slurping coffee this morning through the stirring straw.  I hate when people do that!  It’s meant for stirring, not sucking!  The only thing worse is when you see a guy doing it at bar!