Secretary of Defense Speech

Marine Corps Passage of Command


Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, leaders of our defense enterprise, Deputy Secretary Work, Chairman Dempsey, and all who lead the men and women of our armed forces, we thank you all, we thank you all for being here this morning to thank our friend and former Commandant Jim Amos for more than four decades of service to our nation and to welcome the new Commandant of our United States Marine Corps, General Joe Dunford.

But first, allow me to thank the Amos family.

Bonnie, you have been an extraordinary role model.  You’ve been a dedicated partner throughout Jim’s long and distinguished career.  Over forty-four years, you have managed twenty-nine relocations and twenty-five different schools for your children if you count.  You have been a tireless advocate for our Marine families.  And thank you for all the encouragement, the support, the love, and, I know, very wise advice you have given General Amos over many years.  And thank you for your service to the Corps, and to our nation.

As you all know, in addition to being a husband, father, and grandfather, Jim has a long record of leadership and many, many impressive accomplishments.  He helped make peace – and keep it – in the Balkans.  He commanded Marine aviation in Iraq.  He served in important positions of responsibility at NATO and the Pentagon.

But perhaps above all else, General Amos is a distinguished Marine fighter pilot.  As Commandant, Jim brought a Marine aviator’s focus, discipline, and creativity to the challenges facing the Corps at this unique time in our history.

His tenure as Commandant came not only at a time of war, and defining transitions, but also at a time of great uncertainty…and wrenching challenges for our military budget.    

Through it all, General Amos never forgot the men and women under his command.  Ensuring they were trained and equipped, and ready.  And making sure his Marines were always taken care of. 

Jim made countless trips to Helmand, in Afghanistan, to visit with Marines and all our soldiers, and ensure they had what they needed to win.  He helped ensure that the Marine Corps led the way in the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.  Under Jim’s leadership, the Marines established an innovative rotational presence in Australia, and have helped strengthen our partnerships and alliances all over [the] Asia-Pacific. 

After more than 13 years of grinding warfare, General Amos has also helped the Marines revitalize their amphibious and expeditionary roles.  From North Africa to the Middle East, when crisis strikes, the Marines are first responders…because General Amos made readiness and the health of the force his highest priority, ensuring that Marines meet their mission with the right tools at the right time…and with the highest standards of integrity and discipline. 

While upholding the Corps’ storied traditions, General Amos has also helped the Marines navigate important changes…successfully implementing the repeal of don’t-ask-don’t tell, and integrating women into combat arms.

General Amos has said, “Change doesn't come easy to the Marine Corps, but…when it is rooted, it lasts forever."  Jim’s lasting legacy will be his effort to ensure that the Marine Corps’ new traditions are firmly rooted, leaving behind a Corps stronger than ever before. 

Because membership in the Corps never expires, never dies, Jim has made it his mission to rid the American lexicon of the term, that dreaded “former Marine.”  And he didn’t just state that as his personal preference: he made it a policy.  No matter where you are or what you are doing, Jim has said, "You're a Marine” – just in a different uniform and in a different phase of your life.  All of us here know that Jim, always a Marine, will continue to serve the Corps, and our nation, with the highest distinction…as he transitions to his own different uniform, and his own different phase of life with Bonnie.

As we thank Jim Amos and recognize his successful leadership through a time of enormous change, we can be very confident that General Joe Dunford will build on Jim’s leadership and make the United States Marine Corps even stronger.

Like General Amos, General Dunford has had a storied career.  He is a highly respected, battle-tested infantry officer.  Over the last two years, his steady leadership, his wise leadership of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has successfully kept our transition in Afghanistan on track and on focus despite unrelenting challenges. 

I’ve gotten to know Joe very well over the past 20 months.  I’ve come to rely on his wise judgment.  The President of the United States trusts his judgment.  And I look forward to working closely with him as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps.  He is superbly qualified and prepared to help write the next chapter of the United States Marine Corps’ history.  And to Ellyn, we welcome you back and thank you for all of your sacrifices over many years, and your family. 

Joe and Ellyn, we are grateful to you and your family for your service and commitment to this nation. 

Jim and Bonnie, we will miss you.  We will miss you greatly.

To all four of you: On behalf of President Obama and the American people, Lilibet and I wish you all the best as you begin this new phase, this exciting, wonderful, new phase that you’ve earned in your lives.  And once again, thank you for all you have done for the Marine Corps, the Department of Defense, the United States of America, and all of us who’ve had the great privilege of serving with you, General Amos.

May God continue to bless our Marines, all who serve, and our great nation.  Thank you all very much.