As Delivered - Edited for Clarity —
Gen. John E. Hyten, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Commander: Thank you very much. Hi Laura [wife], hi Katie [daughter], hi Chris [son]. Secretary [of Defense Ash] Carter, Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joe] and Mrs. [Ellyn] Dunford, Adm. [Cecil] Haney, Bonny [Haney], Congressman [Brad] and Mrs. [Ann] Ashford, Congressman [Jeff] Fortenberry, Mayor [Rita] and Mr. [Rick] Sanders, commanders and senior enlisted leaders, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and most importantly the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), good morning. It is truly an honor to be here.
I can’t notice, I can’t help but notice how life seems to come full circle so often in ways you never expect. Twenty years ago, Laura and I packed up our family and moved from Colorado Springs to Omaha to take command of the 6th Space Operations Squadron here at Offutt. I honestly felt that would be the only time I’d be given the opportunity to command in my career and it was a special time both in my career and our lives. We loved that squadron and we were so impressed with how the local community reached out and took care of us. We had a group of incredible airmen and families and we together accomplished some amazing things.
And now, once again, here we are, we’ve just packed up, just Laura and me this time cause, Katie and Chris have moved out and are on their own doing great things. But, Laura and I packed up and moved again from Colorado Springs to Nebraska to take command once again, but this time of a slightly larger, slightly more complex organization – United States Strategic Command. But it is great to be back here at Offutt. It is a special community with great people. So the circle is complete and we are excited to be here.
I first need to thank President Obama, Secretary Carter, and Gen. Dunford for their confidence in me and for nominating me for this job. I also need to thank the Senate for confirming me into this position. I will point out that the selection process for this position was slightly more complicated than my selection process to command here twenty years ago. That’s probably another slight indication that the job I’m going into may be a little more difficult.
But I also need to thank a truly amazing officer and leader, my operational commander until last Tuesday, Adm. Cecil Haney and his wife Bonny. Adm. Haney led with a unique grace and humility that was a remarkable example to all of us who had the good fortune to call him boss. He embraced the challenges of [US] STRATCOM’s many diverse missions and moved us forward in the right direction – together. Thank you sir for all you have done and thank you Bonny for being a great partner to a great leader.
I am truly honored to stand here today in front of all of you and take command of U.S. Strategic Command. It’s actually a bit overwhelming in some ways – particularly when you look at those who came before me. When I look at the portraits on the walls as I walk into the command section – I see some of the greatest leaders in the history of our country. There is no way I belong in that group. The legacy of this command starts with Strategic Air Command – SAC – and that means George Kenney, Curtis LeMay and other amazing legends. In recent years, the leaders of [US] STRATCOM have been heroes and mentors of mine – most recently that meant [Gen. Kevin] Chilton, [Gen. C. Robert] Kehler and Haney – but there were many other heroes of mine before that. It’s a bit intimidating honestly, but it’s also exciting. I know I am not their equal, not even close, but I am motivated to try to live up to their legacy – and so, to each and every one of the amazing joint warriors of this command, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of U.S. Strategic Command, from all across our nation, and to our allies, who stand with us against the most dangerous threats on the planet. I pledge my best efforts to support you, each and every day I am lucky enough to be allowed to command this incredible organization.
The Cold War is over. We won. SAC was one of the primary reasons why. However, the world is once again a very dangerous place and those dangers seem to be building daily. We have a myriad of threats now that we must worry about. Nuclear threats to be sure, but also threats in space, in cyberspace, and in many other areas where [US] STRATCOM plays a leading role. During the Cold War, the SAC motto was simple and to the point – ‘Peace is our Profession’. I liked that motto because it expressed in four simple words what SAC was all about. It meant that in order to keep the peace, we had to be ready and willing to fight the most unthinkable war at a moment’s notice.
And although the world has changed and the Cold War is history, I would offer to you that that motto is still true for this command today. We never want to go to war with nuclear weapons, we never want to go to war in space or cyberspace either. War that extends into these domains is bad for our country, bad for our allies, bad for the world, but in order to keep the peace, we must be ready and willing to fight these kinds of wars if called upon. Thanks to Admiral Haney and the leaders past, we have always been ready. And we will be ready in the future, ready for any global conflict that extends into any domain. That’s because peace is our profession.
And now, for the men and women of Strategic Command, this might seem a little bit strange to you, but I’m going to share with you my two red lines. Things I don’t like and things I will not tolerate. I have shared these in every change of command speech I’ve given in my career, including the speech I gave to my first squadron here at Offutt Air Force Base in 1996, so I’m not going to stop now. Some may disagree, but I think I’m actually pretty easy to get along with, unless you cross one of these lines. First, I can handle any news that comes through my door, except old news. If something good happens, let me know and I’ll celebrate it with you. If something bad happens, let me know and I’ll help you fix it. But if something happens and you choose not to tell me, when I found out, and I will, I’m not going to worry about you, I’m just going to worry about fixing that problem. I will not worry about you at all.
Second, everybody that chooses to come to work in this command, everybody that comes to work in U.S. Strategic Command, each and every one of you has made a special commitment to this nation and you deserve to be treated with respect. I have no patience for those who don’t treat others with respect that they have earned, and I don’t think those people have any place in this business. I don’t even want them around, period. It’s funny how quiet it gets whenever I finish those two things. But I tell you with those red lines, I really feel like I’m easy to understand. I look forward to working with each and every one of you every day. I look forward to the future of this command, building on the tremendous legacy of those who came before us.
And finally, let me take a minute to properly acknowledge my family and friends. I really appreciate Mr. Secretary, Mr. Chairman, Adm. Haney, everybody mentioning my family, because they really are, they really are the reason I’m here. It’s remarkable the things that they have done me. So if you want to know what I think, who I am, some people say I’m a very determined person, dogged determination. Some people say I have an over focus on the mission. Some people say I just focus on love and family, because they are the most important things to me. Some people say I really just care about each and every one of you all the time. All of that is true, but all of that I learned from my family over the years. If you want to know how that came into place, all you have to do is look at the last 24 hours. Because in the last 24 hours, it was tough around here. My mom and dad are here from Alabama, Laura’s mom is here from California. Let’s just say they’ve achieved the gains we all aspire to – they’re really old. But interestingly enough, look over there, they’re all here, every one of them. Most of them weren’t here at midnight last night, because a bunch of them came through Chicago. Chicago was not good yesterday, except if you were a Cubs fan, but the airport is not good. Our daughter Katie, Southwest Airlines was kind enough to drop her in the middle of Midway at midnight last night with no plans, no hotel room and no way to get here this morning. But, through her brother Chris and the help of a lot of other people, she got in a cab, probably Uber, ran across town, got to O’Hare, got a hotel, got up this morning, bought a ticket on American Airlines, landed at 8:52 this morning and was here by 10 o’clock. That’s awesome.
My mom and dad took off yesterday morning. Like I said, they’re old. They took off yesterday morning from Huntsville, Alabama. They got to Chicago, probably around one o’clock. They left Chicago last night a little after eleven. Sitting in an airport, mom, I can’t even imagine what you went through. Holy cow. But, guess what, they got here. Laura’s family, Laura’s mom Marilyn, they got here late last night at midnight. And then if you think about the entire family showing up after midnight, what does that mean? That means we’ve got a whole lot of cars going back and forth to the airport at midnight. And guess what, I wasn’t in one of those cars, because Laura wouldn’t let me get in the car. And if Laura tells you not to get in the car, don’t get in the car. It’s really that simple. But holy cow. They’re the ones that have dogged determination, they’re the ones that will not fail. You tell them to do something, they’re going to, “dad, it’s okay if you don’t come this time, it’s alright. Marilyn it’s okay if you don’t come this time.” “I’m coming, just get out of the way, tell me how to get there, I’m going to make it here” and every one of them made it here. So, thank you all for being there for me all the time. I love you more than you know.
I’ve many other friends here and I don’t have time to acknowledge them all, but I hope to talk to each of you later today and thank you for coming. But a couple of warnings, especially the folks on this side of the room and the folks in formation – Ed Seward’s here as well as Jim and Libby McEwen, they were my bosses when I was a second lieutenant and they have stories.
Lisa Alexander is here from Arkansas, she’s brought my family’s oldest friends, she also has stories. So my warning - don’t believe what they say. They all exaggerate, they all exaggerate a lot. And just to be clear, that applies to every one of my family as well. Do not believe the stories they tell you. Many others are also here from the local area, from Nebraska, from Iowa, family from Iowa, some came out from Colorado, from all over the country – it’s great to see so many friendly faces, thank you.
And then right down in front. The best of who I am. My wife Laura and our two children, Katie and Chris. The kids are awesome. Katie came in from Boston, supposed to go through Chicago, stopped in Indianapolis just for grins I guess, flew into Indianapolis and came down here, working for a great non-profit called Essential Partners doing awesome things. Our son Chris flew in from Denver, a golf professional living in Castle Pines, Colorado. His life is not bad. If you get a chance to talk to them, you’ll find out just how amazing they are. They are truly remarkable. I love you two very much.
And last but not least, my beautiful wife Laura. Offutt, Omaha, Bellevue, they’re lucky to have you back. For many years, she has worked tirelessly to support our nation’s Airmen and their families. Now she gets to expand that passion to supporting our soldiers, sailors, and Marines as well. She will be active in this community and will be active in this command – because that is just who she is, she can’t stop. But she is also my best friend, my biggest supporter, and as everyone knows, she loves me a lot despite my shortcomings, and there are many of those. But everybody here should also know, that I love her more. Don’t forget that.
So thank you for being here today. God bless the men and women of this command, God bless the men and women who are fighting overseas today, and God bless the United States of America. It is time to get to work.