Army Leaders Praise Retiring Vice Chief’s ‘Amazing Service’
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2012 Army Secretary John M. McHugh and Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the service’s chief of staff, joined defense leaders and hundreds more today at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Summerall Field to send off Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, as he retired following 40 years of service.
Noting Chiarelli’s “amazing service,” McHugh said soldiers and civilians speak a great deal about the Army family, which he described as having two levels: battle buddies, men and women in uniform who have always got each other’s back; and the “core family” of soldiers and their husbands and wives, sons and daughters.
On both levels, Chiarelli is “one of the most forceful advocates and passionate leaders this Army has ever known,” the secretary said.
McHugh said Chiarelli has grappled with the most troubling and complex problems the Army confronts, including soldier suicide, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress -- what he called “the health of the force writ large, both physical and mental.”
“It’s hard, truly, to find an issue of remote importance … where Pete Chiarelli isn’t at the head of the table,” the Army secretary said, adding that the general has shown limitless passion for soldiers and families through a tireless advocacy that has truly made a difference.
Chiarelli has linked Army and National Football League efforts to study prevention and treatment of traumatic brain injury, and enlisted the National Institute of Mental Health for a five-year suicide research partnership with the Army, McHugh noted.
“Yes, for the betterment of the Army, but ultimately, hopefully, for the betterment of all Americans, … and all of humanity,” he added.
The general also has worked tirelessly against legal roadblocks to establish the Army Homefront Fund to assist wounded warriors and their families, the secretary noted.
“We are a better Army -- a far, far better Army -- because of Pete’s selfless service and his sacrifice,” McHugh said.
Chiarelli is not just soft at heart, he added, but has been “a fearless, tough, resolute commander respected and admired by all under his charge.”
The secretary said Chiarelli is a big man who has done big things, and leaves an Army whose soldiers and families are now safer, healthier and better cared thanks to his work.
Odierno said Chiarelli is a soldier’s soldier who has commanded at all levels.
“He exemplified every tenet of leadership we all strive for,” the Army chief said. “Among the first to recognize the evolving nature of the Iraq war, he had the audacity and the will to lead change in Iraq. By refocusing our strategy on the population – the absolute key in a counterinsurgency campaign – he reprioritized efforts, built consensus, and made a lasting impact.”
Chiarelli was a scholar-warrior in combat, Odierno said, and brought the same drive to his legendary tenure as the vice chief of staff of the Army.
Odierno said Chiarelli’s service during the last five years reminds him of Gen. George C. Marshall, who during World War II “served thanklessly at the strategic level when others were gaining notoriety at the tactical and operational levels.”
“Pete put the needs of the nation over his own personal career,” Odierno added. “And his legacy is one that will be in the history books.”
That legacy is the soldiers Chiarelli led, the leaders he trained and mentored, and the families he has taken care of, he added.
The general’s wife, Beth Chiarelli, is “one remarkable lady,” Odierno said.
She has been involved in countless causes, including the Military Child Education Coalition, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, the USO and the Fisher House Foundation, Odierno said.
“Pete and Beth, you have been an inspiring command team together,” he said. “You both have touched the lives of thousands. … Because of you, the Army will be a better place for many years to come.”
Chiarelli said when he and his wife packed up the car and headed east to Fort Knox, Ky., in 1972, they “never imagined the Army would become our life, but it certainly has over these past four decades.”
He said his memories include his first assignment as a platoon leader; winning the Canadian army trophy as part of the first U.S. team to earn the tank gunnery prize; teaching at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; commanding the 1st Cavalry Division; standing in the Pentagon’s Army Operations Center on 9/11 “after announcing an air cap was set over Washington, D.C.”; testifying before Congress 21 times; and driving a pace car 140 miles an hour around the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Of the last, he said, “Now, seriously, that was really cool.”
What’s important, though, is not what he has done but why it mattered, the general said.
For the last 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, American troops have accomplished remarkable missions as “not just steely-eyed killers, … [but also as] diplomat, mayor, economist,
city engineer, tribal liaison, trainer, farmer, and the list goes on and on,” he said.
It has been the greatest honor and privilege of his life to serve alongside the Army’s soldiers and noncommissioned officers, Chiarelli added.
“You taught me leadership, compassion, and true selflessness through your steadfast example. You have awed and inspired me every step of the way,” he said.
As he takes off the uniform, Chiarelli said, he does so “bursting with pride, confident that our Army is on the right track, and in good, good hands.”