Remarks by Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul J. Selva at the UNC/CFC/USFK Change of Command
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a distinct pleasure for my wife Ricki and I to be here today on behalf of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and our Chairman General Joe Dunford to preside over today’s ceremonies and to share this special day with two special families.
Minister Jeong, Ambassador Harris, ambassadors from all of the sending nations, General Park, Admiral Davidson, General Brooks, General Abrams, General Kim, General Bell, General Brown, and members of the Republic of Korea and United States Armed Forces…
Ladies and gentlemen…thank you all for being here to honor those who serve in United Nations Command, the U.S.-Korea Combined Forces Command, United States Forces Korea, and to celebrate our long-standing alliance.
I’m delighted to see so many military and civilian leaders here today from our Korean partners and allies.
Your presence is an example to all of us. It says more than any words could say about the enduring strength of this alliance … about the leadership of General Vince Brooks … and about the commitment of the entire U.S.–Korea and sending-state team.
Over the past 65 years, our commitment to each other has faced many challenges, yet it has never wavered.
The U.S.–Republic of Korea alliance, along with the ready-made coalition of the United Nations Command, is the unshakeable bedrock of deterrence that has preserved peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
It is an alliance built on mutual trust, shared values, fortified by more than six decades of our forces serving together shoulder-to-shoulder, training together shoulder-to-shoulder, and remaining ready to fight shoulder-to-shoulder, if necessary.
The heart and soul of this alliance is the men and women of the United States, the Republic of Korea, and the sending states who watch every day to keep this country strong, prosperous and free.
And for the past two and a half years, General Vince Brooks has been their leader, providing visionary leadership to United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and United States Forces Korea during one of the most dynamic and demanding periods in the history of our alliance.
Vince took command just three months after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear weapons test. Over the next 19 months, North Korea conducted no fewer than 50 provocative tests and demonstrations in an attempt to showcase its accelerated progress in weapons development, all while elevating its inflammatory rhetoric.
It seemed increasingly likely that the Peninsula was headed toward crisis.
Throughout that turbulent time, Vince’s steady leadership ensured the multinational, combined, and joint force serving in the Republic of Korea were always ready to defend South Korea amid the highest of tensions.
Today, the security environment on the Korean Peninsula is at an inflection point, marked by a reduction in tension, an increase in productive dialogue, and a gradual growth of optimism over the potential for a sustained relationship with the North.
Vince and his United Nations Command team have played a critical role in this historic transition, helping to enable the diplomatic progress that is necessary to bring a lasting peace to the Peninsula.
Vince: we will forever be grateful for all of your contributions to strengthening this alliance. For your service throughout an exemplary military career.
I also want to thank Vince’s wife, Carol, who has devoted her life to making a difference for others.
Carol: your dedication to the men and women of these commands is inspirational and it is a reflection of your lifetime of service. Thank you for sharing Vince with the United States Army and with our nation.
We wish you both the best as you open the next chapter in your lives.
The good news is we’re placing this command in the hands of another very capable couple, Robert and Connie Abrams, who are eager to wrap their arms around this ironclad alliance.
We send only the best to the Peninsula, and General Abrams is no exception.
You might say excellence runs in Abe’s blood. As has been said, he is the son of a former Army Chief of Staff and both of his older brothers were Army general officers.
Abe is taking command today, not because of his family’s patriotic heritage, but because he is one of the most experienced leaders we have in our military.
He has more than 36 years of exceptional leadership at every level.
Abe is the senior Armor Officer in the United States Army, a proven leader in combat, and he has participated in more than 100 exercises on the Korean Peninsula.
Abe has a deep appreciation for both the environment he’s entering and the value of our alliance.
He believes in leading by personal example, focusing on what’s most important, and empowering his people to get the job done.
Abe has spent the last three years leading Army Forces Command, the largest organization in the U.S. military.
His number one priority during that time was building and sustaining readiness across all components of America’s Army…lessons he will no doubt apply here.
I know he is prepared to lead the command at this point in its history, and he has a great partner in Connie who will be a source of strength and support.
Connie, your commitment to our soldiers is widely known, and I’m sure you’ll bring that same passion to your service here in Korea.
Like Carol, you’re a superb champion for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, and our Korea partners who serve here.
It is because of leaders like the Brooks and the Abrams, and because of all of you, that we retain our place as the world’s most preeminent militaries, and why our alliance will always endure.
At this moment I would ask God to bless you all as you venture into the future. Thank you for being here today, and good luck.