BELLEVUE, Neb. â€“ U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) bid farewell to Gen. C. Robert Kehler in a change of command ceremony at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Neb. Nov. 15.
Kehler relinquished command to Adm. Cecil D. Haney, the former Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Chuck Hagel, welcomed the hundreds in attendance and acknowledged numerous dignitaries including Governor of Nebraska Dave Heineman, community leaders, and defense leadership. Hagel reflected on his time as a Nebraska United States Senator and the relationships he had forged with the military and civilian personnel stationed at USSTRATCOM.
“We will continue to assure the American people that USSTRATCOM's professionals have the training, discipline, and leadership and capability that are necessary to succeed Â–even in the face of growing fiscal constraints...Our allies must be able to count on that and our enemies must be able to clearly understand that.”
Hagel noted the expanded mission areas USSTRATCOM is charged with since the command’s inception.
“While its fundamental mission remains the same, to deter and detect strategic attacks against the United States, it confronts a much, much wider range of threats and adversaries than ever before,” he said. “State and non-state actors are gaining increasingly advanced and more lethal capabilities. Space and cyberspace are relatively new areas of conflict. USSTRATCOM is America’s first line of defense against these threatsâ€¦This command must maintain a safe, secure, ready, and effective nuclear deterrent force. That is USSTRATCOM’s top priority.”
Hagel highlighted a number of Kehler’s achievements, including USSTRATCOM’s B-2 bomber mission to the Republic of Korea and bringing U.S. Cyber Command to operational capacity.
“For the past three years, you have had a remarkable leader in General Bob Kehler. General Kehler is superbly qualified for the high, high demands of this position,” Hagel said. “Having served at this command several times over the decades in many capacities, he combined a deep respect for its heritage and a keen understanding of how it must adapt to present-day threats and future challenges.”
After Hagel presented Kehler and USSTRATCOM with the Joint Meritorious Unit Award in recognition of exceptional contributions in its assigned missions, Haney joined the two men at the center of the stage. Following the recitation of orders and a salute exchange, Haney accepted the USSTRATCOM flag from Hagel and officially assumed command. In his first address as commander, Haney expressed confidence in the command’s ability to carry out its mission set.
“I’m awestruck at the opportunity to return, to lead and serve the vast talent that makes up U.S. Strategic Command,” he said. “A lot has happened since I departed in 2011â€¦ I intend to work diligently with this team of professionals to ensure the effectiveness of the global operations Strategic Command conducts - to deter, to detect strategic attacks against the United States and its allies, and to be ready to respond if deterrence fails.”
With the change of command complete, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, took the stage to furl Kehler’s flag. Kehler retired after nearly 39 years of service.
“It’s my great privilege to be part of this ceremony...this command has provided the shield for our nation’s security and for its prosperity,” Dempsey said. “Bob has carried the strategic torch for the nation and been a clear voice for this command’s capabilities throughout his entire career. There are few that are better able to understand, to appreciate, and to articulate the vast mission which comprises our nation’s strategic deterrent forceâ€¦we can thank Bob for his vision, persistence, [and] his leadership as he has been central to our nation’s security and prosperity yesterday, today, and I’m confident, tomorrow.”
Dempsey then presented Kehler with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal for his service as Commander, USSTRATCOM. Following the reading of his retirement orders and the furling of his flag, Kehler acknowledged an array of family, friends and colleagues as essential components to his success.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with and for the best, brightest, and most talented people the nation has to offerâ€¦I could not have been better prepared for the challenges along the way. People deliberately trained and positioned me, and I hope I have done the same thing for the coming generations. People who volunteer to serve in the military of the United States are extraordinary. They come from all walks of life and all parts of the country, in some cases, all parts of the world,” Kehler said. “It’s been a privilege and an honor to serve the world’s greatest military during the most extraordinary four decades of our timesâ€¦the successes attributed to me are really your successes, and you’re the ones who deserve my praise and my thanks.”
USSTRATCOM is one of nine unified combat commands, and is charged with space operations, information operations, missile defense, global command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); global strike and strategic deterrence, and combating weapons of mass destruction.