Remarks at Commandant of the Marine Corps Passage of Command

U.S. Department of Defense Speeches, September 24, 2015 | Go to article overview

Remarks at Commandant of the Marine Corps Passage of Command


As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., September 24, 2015

Good morning. Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, family, friends--and the men and women in uniform before us today who give meaning to this hallowed ceremony--thank you for being here to honor General Joe Dunford's service as our 36th Commandant, and to welcome Bob Neller to his new post as 37th Commandant of the United States Marine Corps.

First and foremost, Ellyn: you've been Joe's rock-solid foundation for more than three decades. Your support for our wounded warriors and our military families is more than dutiful - it's personal. I see that all the time. Every family hosted at that magnificent Home of the Commandant leaves knowing the Dunfords are family, too. Ellyn was settling in, joyfully, to her duties as the Commandant's wife, but the president and I had a different calling for her and Joe. And I'm grateful for her forbearance. My wife Stephanie, who also loves the troops, thanks you too.

And you, Joseph, Pat, Kathleen have shared that warm support with countless others. To Joe's parents--Mr. and Mrs. Dunford--thank you for your service, your sacrifice. Joe says he's a Marine because of his dad, and he says he's disciplined because of the "drill instructor" in the family... that's you, mom.

We can't thank you all enough, now and into the future... because we're not done with Joe yet.

He was the first and obvious choice to lead our force as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs--and I speak for everyone when I say how fortunate we are that Joe's counsel and wisdom will continue to guide our nation's security for years to come.

Today, we celebrate Joe's leadership as Commandant--knowing it's only a snapshot of what he's meant to the Marine Corps.

During the early years of the Iraq War, Joe commanded the 5th Marine Regiment. One Marine recalled that "every time there was a rough situation, Colonel Dunford was in his Humvee--out in front." Another tells how Joe refused armor inserts in his flak jacket until every Marine under his command was issued a pair.

Another Marine said just being around Joe was "awe-inspiring," saying Joe is both, quote, "a brilliant tactician and the most humble individual I've ever known... he loves his men; and he's loved by his men."

Perhaps the most telling testimonial came from an officer who served with Joe in 2003 and in the first Battle of Fallujah in 2004: "someday," he said, "I will tell my grandkids that I was one of Joe Dunford's Lieutenants."

These Marines' say more than any of us could about the character and leadership of this great man. Humble. Driven to excellence. Always faithful to his people and mission... wielding [the] operational acuity of a battle hardened commander and the strategic wisdom of a statesman.

We saw that--I saw that--clearly during Joe's time leading U.S. and allied troops as the NATO ISAF Commander: we saw his compassion in handwritten condolences sent to families of the fallen... we saw his tenacity in the way he managed dealing with President Karzai... and we saw his skillfulness in transitioning security responsibility to Afghan Forces. …

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