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Remarks during change of command ceremony

General William L. Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command

General William L. Shelton
Commander, Air Force Space Command

Change of Command Ceremony

5 January 2011

General Shelton: Thank you very much, and I can't tell you what an honor it is to be standing here today.

I've been in and out of Air Force Space command in several capacities since 1986 when the command was only three and a half years old, so to have the great fortune to come back and command this great organization is truly a special privilege.

There are so many people to thank on this day, time won't allow me to get to them all, but please allow me to mention a few before I speak more directly to the men and women of Air Force Space Command.

General Schwartz, I appreciate your trust and this tremendous vote of confidence. Working for you on the Air Staff these last two years has been a true learning experience for me. I know the workload you carry every day for our great Air Force and for the nation, and I know your days and your nights, for that matter, are more than full. Thanks to you and Suzie for being here today and for all you do to keep the Air Force banner flying high.

I want to reemphasize to you my personal commitment to lead this command as well as I know how, but I also understand that good followership on my part is still required.

I consider General Bob Kehler one of my great friends. I've worked alongside him and I've worked for him. In every case I knew he had my back and I certainly had his. I thank you, sir, and Marge, for making this transition great for Linda and me, and certainly much easier.

I know this command's in great shape because of your three years of outstanding leadership and I look forward to continuing to work with and for you as you move to U.S. Strategic Command.

And in that time-honored tradition of the outgoing commander, I know you're really silently saying to me, "Just don't screw it up." [Laughter]. I'll absolutely try my best not to do that.

There are too many friends, relatives and Academy classmates and others here to call out by name, so just know that I appreciate all of you taking the time and effort to be with us here today.

To my wife Linda, thank you for playing so many roles in our 34 years of marriage. You've been best friend, wife, mother, and now in one of the best roles ever created, grandmother or nana, as you prefer. We go down this road a little farther, still together, and just as it should be.

Our two kids are with us here today along with their spouses and our two grandsons. We're very proud of them and proud of what they do. Sarah and Jim; Joel and Emily; I thank you for being here and for giving Linda and me so much joy.

I'm lucky to have my mom here today, along with my sister and brother and their families, and so many other relatives. We also have several good friends who have traveled long distances to be here. This gypsy existence we live has been a challenge at times, but we've managed to stay close to our families and to our friends over the years, and that's been possible because of terrific support like we have here today.

Linda and I thank you all for being here, but more importantly, we can't thank you enough for the love and help over these many years. Specifically to our Oklahoma family, we're glad to be a little closer to you geographically, and as Tom Bodett would say, "We'll leave the light on for you."

Mr. Mayor, it's a pleasure to have you here and thanks for all you do for our military members in the Colorado Springs area. I'd also like to thank Admiral Winnifeld and Mary for being here. As I said earlier, we promise to be good neighbors, both personally and professionally.

Former commanders and personal mentors, General Katina, General Estes, General Moorman, General Lord, it's good to see all of you and I thank you for all that you've done for me over these many years. General Holland, it's good to see you, sir. I'm sorry, I missed you earlier.

General Carlson, I look forward to working with you as we continue a close cooperative relationship between Air Force Space Command and the National Reconnaissance Office.

Mr. Dave Van Buren, the Air Force acquisition leader is also here, and we've committed to each other to work closely to improve our space acquisition process.

Two former command chiefs who worked for me at 14th Air Force are here, and I especially appreciate them traveling here for this ceremony. Chief McKinley and Chief Durrick, you make me proud.

To all the community leaders of Colorado Springs and the surrounding area, thank you for being here. Linda and I are delighted to be back in this beautiful area, and we look forward to getting reacquainted with many of you and making new friends as well. It's a terrific community partnership you have going here, and our aim is to keep that momentum going.

Now I'd like to talk specifically to the men and women of Air Force Space Command. Your dedicated work in both the space and cyberspace arenas keeps this command in a prominent role in our national security. Building and operating the space and cyberspace capabilities of our Air Force is vitally important business. So many of our people are counting on you, many of them in life or death situations today.

That tactical air controller on the ground in Afghanistan needs your best efforts every hour of every day to protect the soldiers and marines they support. Scores of air crews are in the air right now who count on communications and navigation capabilities you provide, and because of that they're ready to project everything from combat power to humanitarian relief to any spot on this planet at any time. The global communications capabilities you operate both in space and in cyberspace are needed by virtually every sailor, soldier, airman, marine and coast guardsman and are essential in this area of information-enabled operations.

All hyperbole aside, literally the entire world is counting on your revolutionary GPS navigation and timing signals. Signals we now take for granted in our daily lives.

And as we think about an every-changing world where alliances and future behaviors are hard to predict, your strong presence and operational prowess in space and cyberspace will help deter aggression by others. You should take justifiable pride that you make it look so easy and trust me when I say I know it's not. But we will continue to do our best to make it look easy for all who need our help. And along the way we'll work hard to be as cost-effective as we can be, we'll look to bring new capability on board as fast as humanly possible, and we will strive to provide ever-greater operational utility for our forces across the globe.

The baseball player Satchel Paige once said of his pitching philosophy, "Throw strikes. Home plate don't move." We'll stay focused on home plate and we'll try to do our best to always throw strikes.

This is a unique command comprised of vast technical capability both in operations and in acquisition with assets across the globe and reaching deep into space. But frankly it's the people who make this command a world-class organization. These people standing here in formation in front of you represent the nearly 46,000 members of the command located at 86 different locations. These folks produce amazing results every day by coming together for a purpose greater than themselves. It's the spirit of teamwork, the willingness to listen to ideas other than our own, and the recognition of the important contributions of each and every member that makes this command hum.

Collectively we will continue to respect and support each other as members of the Air Force family in its broadest sense. Our success will be shared successes and on those rare occasions when we fail, our failures will also be shared as a team learning experience. Then we'll get back up, we'll dust ourselves off, and we'll start throwing strikes again.

I'm extremely proud and humbled to be back with you as your commander, and I promise you my best efforts every day. I will likewise count on each of you to bring your best efforts every day, and I know you will.

I know ceremonies like this are difficult to plan and execute, so if you would, please join me in a round of applause for Lieutenant Colonel Deanna Burt and all who had a hand in pulling this event together. [Applause].

General Schwartz, Chief, again thank you for this wonderful opportunity to command this talented group of people. To all in attendance, thank you for being here today. You truly honor us with your presence.

Now I'd ask each of you to do me a favor and join in saying a silent prayer sometime today for our brothers and sisters who are deployed away from their families and many in harm's way. We look forward to their safe return.

Thank you again, and may God bless each of you.