Admiral Mike Mullen has retired. Mullen has been the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since October 2007. Mullen is being replaced by Army General Marty Dempsey. At the Fort Myer parade ground where the Hail and Farewell ceremony occurred, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated “As the new secretary of defense, I am confident of the future because we have the strongest military force in our history — and it is strong because we can replace one great warrior with another.”
His retirement comes as word that the military that he has served in for 43 years had taken down al Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki.
President Barack Obama praised Mullen’s leadership which included providing the Oval Office with crucial information about the two wars that the nation is involved with, and his critical testimony to Congress calling for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Obama stated “Mike, as you look back at your four consequential years as chairman and your four decades in uniform, be assured: Our military is stronger and our nation is more secure because of the service that you have rendered.”
Mullen is the son of Hollywood publicist, and the master of self-deprecating humor. He even drew laughter from the crowd telling the story of how he had been mistakenly identified at a party as former general and CIA director David Petraeus. He also noted that it was better if participants in White House meetings went more smoothly if the participants don’t criticize the president’s favorite baseball team, the Chicago White Sox. He stated “And he really likes it when you laugh at his jokes. It just makes the meeting go better.”
Mullen might be heading out, but his concern for the troops did not come to an end just because he is retiring. Mullen hammered at the point that the American public must become connected to its military personnel when they come home. He stated “Welcome them back to those places, not with bands and bunting or yellow ribbons, but with the solemn recognition that they have done your bidding, they have represented you well, they have carried the best of you and of this country into battle. They have done things and seen things and bear things in their souls that you cannot know.”
Still, there was a lot of praise for Mullen as he heads on out. Panetta praised Mullen’s hard work and persistence saying “His leadership, his influence, his honest candor, his compassion and his outspoken concern for our troops have set an exceptionally high standard for the responsibilities and performance of a chairman of the Joint Chiefs.”
Dempsey is now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He will be overseeing the withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq as well as how to cut down the military’s budget.
Dempsey becomes Panetta’s and Obama’s right hand man in navigating the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the hard choices about budget cuts. Panetta stated about Dempsey “Marty’s strategic vision is the right one for this time of transition as we craft a joint force that can defeat the wide range of complex security threats we face today, and into the future. In a speech he gave while leading the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, Marty said that the pace of change in today’s world requires that we look at the future differently than we have in the past. Instead of trying to leap ahead decades into the future as we design our military, we must build a force able to handle the challenges we know it will face today, and one that can adapt to the future.”
Dempsey stated as well that “Although you’re a sailor and I’m a soldier, in the tradition of the horse cavalry, I want you to know that I will be proud to tell people that I rode with Mike Mullen during some of the most challenging times in our nation’s history.”
The LGBT Community must feel a certain amount of pride and loss with the retirement of Mullen. Had it not been for him pushing hard within the military, the law known colloquially as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would remain in place today. To him, there are many thanks that must go out from those lesbian and gay service personnel who are now able to live their lives in the open without fear of their careers obliterated.
It has been ten days since DADT was officially over…and so far, nothing bad has happened.