Secretary of Defense, Honorable Dr. Robert Gates presents the U.S. Strategic Command flag to the commander, General C. Robert Kehler during STRATCOM's ceremony Jan 28 at Offutt, AFB, Neb. The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen (left) presented the command with a Joint Meritorious Unit Award recognizing exceptional contributions in its assigned missions including strategic deterrence, space, cyber, information operations and missile defense -- promoting global security for America. (More Photos
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Gen. C. Robert "Bob" Kehler took the reins as the commander of U.S. Strategic Command during a change of command ceremony here today.
The Secretary of Defense, Honorable Dr. Robert M. Gates presided over the event. Approximately 1,000 people were on hand to welcome back the former Air Force Space Command commander who served as STRATCOM's deputy commander from 2005 to 2007.
In addition to Gates, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. Norton Schwartz welcomed Kehler and praised the outgoing commander Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, who retired today after 34 years of service.
Mullen spoke first, thanking the men and women of STRATCOM and their families for their sacrifices and sustained commitment as both the nation's sword and shield.
"We ask much of you. You are a critical and enduring part of the best military in history," Mullen said. He also presented the command with the Joint Meritorious Unit Award in recognition of exceptional contributions in its assigned missions including strategic deterrence, space, cyber, information operations and missile defense.
"We are at the dawn of a new age where the space and cyber domains present a strategic landscape that promises tremendous opportunities but sobering responsibilities," Mullen said. "As we march into this new age, I have the highest confidence - Bob is the right person to lead us. "
Citing Kehler's extensive military experience in the realm of space and strategic deterrence, Gates lauded the general as the most qualified leader to continue STRATCOM's legacy as the premier joint combatant command in strategic capability.
"Our nation looks to the men and women of STRATCOM to provide the traditional strategic nuclear deterrent while also taking on new strategic missions that reflect the technology and threats of the 21st Century - most notably in space and cyber," said Gates. "I believe few people are as well suited to carry this command into the future as General Bob Kehler, the former leader of our ICBM force. Bob, I look forward to seeing the great things you will be able to do at this vital command. "
Turning to the outgoing general, Gates also commended Chilton for his service and highlighted many of the command's successes achieved during his tenure.
"Chili has led the way in reforming the management of the nuclear enterprise - overseeing the creation of the Air Force Global Strike Command, providing more training for our nuclear Airmen and restoring the nuclear mission to its proper place of honor," the secretary said.
Following the ceremonial passing of the command flag, Kehler addressed the audience.
"I pledge to you that the strategic challenges facing our nation will command all the energy and commitment I can muster," Kehler said, adding it is good to be back in Omaha.
"The warmth and generosity of those who live in America's heartland are legendary and our young military men and women appreciate you more than you know," he said.
"I am deeply honored to be part of United States Strategic Command again. The very name suggests the importance of our mission," said Kehler. "The security challenges facing our nation are complex, unremitting and compelling - addressing them requires our complete focus, effective partnerships and synchronized efforts. From high-end strategic deterrence to confronting the diverse demands of irregular and hybrid warfare, our ability to respond when called depends on the skill and dedication of the great men and women serving in STRATCOM. "
USSTRATCOM is one of ten U.S. unified commands under the Department of Defense (DOD). The command, including components, employs more than 2,700 people representing all four services including DOD civilians and contractors who oversee the command's operationally focused global strategic mission. (For further information, contact U.S. Strategic Command Public Affairs at 294-4130, or via email: email@example.com)