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SPEECH | May 20, 2015

Omaha Trophy

Adm. Cecil Haney: Well Good Afternoon.  It’s great to be back in Minot.  Seemed like I was here just yesterday, but the weather was different. In fact, I was looking forward to some snow, but they tell me I needed to have been here this past weekend to have enjoyed some of that.  But your weather is better here than in Nebraska today, so I commend you for that.  I wanted to come here earlier, I wanted to actually get here last night, but as it turned out, I had a very important VTC with my leadership in the Pentagon, the Deputy Secretary of Defense-- where we actually periodically have a nuclear deterrent enterprise and review group meeting with all the associated leaders and stakeholders.  I didn’t want to have any VTC problems this morning because of the importance of that particular forum, not just for me, but also for you.  Because that’s where I get to talk about you--what you are doing, what you need, and ensure we are synchronized as leaders in moving forward.  As such, I’m proud to be back here though in order to see some of you outside this particular ceremony.  So I’m looking forward to that as well.

I want to salute the community leaders that are assembled here because when you look at the performance of this outfit, it’s always grounded in yes their team spirit and individual performances, but also due to the families and the community that we get to live with as we carry out this important mission here in Minot, North Dakota.  So really I want to give a shout out here to the mayor and Task Force 21 who some of the members talked about being in Washington DC just yesterday themselves, but also having seen them in my headquarters as well as knowing they get around and they are out and about making sure others understand the importance of what gets done here associated with the strategic deterrent missions. So, thank you for all you do for us and thanks for being here today to see and salute the performance of the 5th Bomb Wing—the War Birds…are you out there? (cheering), as well as the 91st Missile Wing—the Rough Riders…are you out there? (cheering)  I feel like I’m missing a stick, and I should have one of those…but probably too dangerous for a four-star admiral to have at his disposal.

Listen, I want…you know, we already have given a shout out to the leaders assembled before you, but it’s the leadership and the leadership team that makes it all occur here.  And having visited multiple times, and seeing weather that doesn’t look like this…and how everybody as a team works together-- whether it’s the chefs for the alert facilities, to the maintainers through the intricate maintenance procedures on our capabilities, whether it’s the alert crews themselves, whether it’s the defenders all working together for a  common cause, and of course here at Minot its unique in that we have a missile wing and a bomb wing here working side by side, and I think that’s extra special in terms of how the two wings intermix and really think about the importance of what both wings do, in association with 21st century deterrence, day in and day out, 24/7, 365 days in the year.  And you do that so well that we’re going to give you these Omaha trophies.  Now normally I’m here with the folks who really donate those trophies, which is the Strategic Consultation Committee, but today I couldn’t bring one of them with me, so I asked if I could bring them in another way since I couldn’t bring them physically.  So I’d like you to pay attention to the screen here where Mr. David Brown, from our Strategic Consultation Committee there in Omaha, who supports U.S. Strategic Command with the group, and he has a message for you on the screen that I’d like you to pay attention to.

(short congratulatory message by Mr. David Brown, President and CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce)

So, I couldn’t bring him physically but at least sort of virtually.  I would have rather had Skype, but hopefully you’ll tolerate that because without them we wouldn’t have an Omaha Trophy in the way we do it today.  And I can tell you their team spirit and their appreciation for the mission you do is also off the charts.

When you look at our strategic environment today, and you look at our world-- east, west-- and what have you, I hope you definitely get the feeling that what you do is important each day.  I know the leadership of our country today definitely says the same, and I echo it here. It is very important you continue your Omaha Trophy performance as you continue to work through calendar year 2015.  This is an award for 2014 performance, and so far as I look at what you’ve been doing here in 2015, I would say I can thank you for having that kind of that remarkable performance continue well beyond ’14.  This is important.  This is important for the United States of America that we have safe, secure, and effective strategic nuclear deterrent.  While we have our goals as stated by the President of the United States, in his Prague Speech in 2009, and that’s important…that we work toward a world free of nuclear weapons.  He said it probably will not occur in his lifetime, but we needed to work toward that.  But it was important that while the world was not free of nuclear weapons, that we have a safe, secure, and effective capability, and that‘s what you are about.

So when you look at the long list of things you had to do in 2014, it was all about mission excellence.  And that’s exactly what we want potential adversaries to understand in the deterrence calculus.  Your performance makes sure that’s well known, that they cannot escalate their way out of a failed conflict.  It’s important given the consequences of getting that equation wrong.  When I look at the lens through the allies, then in 2015 I’ve travelled around and seen some of them in their neighborhoods, they also count on us in the assurance that is provided.  So that mission excellence that you’re getting saluted for here with the Omaha Trophy matters to them as well.  And I would say with our non-proliferation efforts that our country is doing, your day-to-day efforts help constrain others from wanting to have this kind of capability.  And that too is important.  Sometimes in the business of the day, with all the wrench turning, all the planning, all the execution, all the driving out to launch control sites, launch facilities, etc., it can be lost on why it’s so darn important to get this mission right and continue to do so with mission excellence at the forefront, backing each other up so that the team performance is where it should be.  So as Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, I want to personally thank you for mission excellence as demonstrated in these trophies that we’re going to pass out to your leadership.

One other area that I really want to talk about that you were intimately involved in from both sides, missile wing/bomber wing, was the force improvement programs that we got underway last year.  And your day to day efforts, your ideas, I think, really contributed in a remarkable way, to execute the mission, not just today but for the future.  Don’t stop with the force improvement program.  In order to maintain excellence requires that we continue to look hard, to bring up those ideas, such that we can act on them appropriately.  I need your ideas, although I hold these things called stakeholder meetings and what have you, to ensure we are getting it right at the leadership level in terms of supporting this mission that you are all about. So this force improvement program, the book is not closed.  Continue working through that, looking for those things we should be supporting you with.  I will be looking at that in the two sessions I have following this as I muster with some of you to hear some more of your ideas. 

So let me start with the 91st Missile Wing, the Rough Riders.  I won’t go through the whole list, but just a few. I won’t even say the number of nuclear convoys you expertly got done in 2014.  But in posturing us and planning for the New START Treaty implementation is another area that you worked very hard and getting that right.  The safety business of flying, from the helicopter business of more than 2,000 flying hours safely, including one involving an inflight malfunction I am to understand that you also expertly took care of to ensure we didn’t have any problems in that regard.  The testing performance through the glory trip program that you participated in; and then there is something on the list talking about 7 Global Strike Challenge trophies that were achieved and the sprit bell (clapping).  And I got to hear a lot about that so I know there is a lot of Rough Rider spirit here amongst us.  And then finally, it’s your example and your team work across all of the missile wings that also got my attention in terms of sharing good ideas, approaches and those kinds of things, so the performance of all of them could improve. And to me that is what teamwork is about, it’s about the whole. So I appreciate your example across the board, and that’s just a few representative examples.

Okay War Birds.  What do I have to say about you? Well, you get out and about a lot.  You’re having simultaneous operations, particularly while the runway was being repaired there, in terms of working from Ellsworth and Minot but also Guam as well.  And in 2014, I went through Guam and got to see some of the work going on there from our bombardiers.  In talking of course to Sam Locklear, the Pacific Commander, also appreciative of the work that gets done at the deployments that you participate in.  So I thank you for those. But it’s work with third sensor configurations, emergency repairs, and of course your outstanding safety record, demonstrating, of course, those long range strike capabilities that you do so well.  Now when I came through here once before, there was a guy with the call sign of “Rocky” that was part of the 5th Bomb Wing.  I understand he’s still a part, I don’t know if he is out there today.  Are you out there Rocky?  Do any of you guys know Rocky?  Well Rocky introduced me to the concept of “queep” during one of my visits, and we had this very lengthy conversation to what “queep” was—extraneous activity that doesn’t amount to a whole lot, and I’m big about eliminating cumbersome work practices, so I was very elated that this individual had a term that some of you, I came to understand, knew about.  So I asked him more about it. “Tell me about this ‘queep’ business; what can I eliminate?”  You know Rocky gave me a long laundry list.  And I said, “Boy that sounds so good.  Can you put that in an email for me and send it to me,” and as the words slipped from my mouth, I realize I was giving him more “queep” to do and decided that would be a bad plan.  So I said, “How about making a video, that would be fun.  And all you have to do is sit there and say me exactly what you just told me, and that way when I go to my various commander meetings, I can show this video and try to get us on a ‘queep’ reduction program.” 

Well, it didn’t take him very long; he had to muster a few folks. And he didn’t have a video with him just talking; he had an action video.  And quite frankly it had a lot of humor with it, but it got the point across, and I wish I could have shown you the video, not of the “queep” video, but of the video of the first time I showed that in a commanders’ meeting, and some of the commanders were taking notes associated with those things, and in some cases they thought they had gotten rid of the “queep”. In other cases, it was something new.  And I share that story because again what did I say about the force improvement program.  It’s very important that we keep our heads in the game and continue to work on that kind of thing.  So I really salute Rocky in having that candid conversation over lunch with me, in giving me that kind of vision that we needed to get rid of “queep” in our business, so we can focus more on mission.  And it’s getting those kinds of ideas from you that I think are so important, and to me that’s what makes our military the best military on the planet…is because of how we allow ideas like that to bubble up from the ranks and move out on it.  Yes we get some really unique technology and equipment to work with, but quite frankly it’s the people and those ideas that make such a difference in our business.

So whatever you do, keep that 2014 Omaha Trophy performance going forward here.  It’s important to our country, it’s important to our allies and partners, and clearly important to me.  You know in 2012, the deputy secretary of defense at the timeframe, Ash Carter, who is now our secretary of defense came through here.  And he said the following quote “What you do here, particularly the nuclear mission, is the bedrock of our security.  It is what stands in the background and looms over every action this country takes on the world stage.  It is the foundation for everything we do.” End quote.  I think that quote still applies today. 

We’ve saluted the team Minot here, but I also want to salute the families, in particular as was mention here, represented here by Diane, Brenda, Leon and Ken and perhaps a few others out there whose names I didn’t get.  I know we couldn’t do what we do without the love and support we get from our family members.  So when we look at this Omaha Trophy, it is about you too and the sacrifices you have endured for our country and continue to do so. (clapping) And I for one can’t thank you enough. 

The other person who I don’t know, I also wanted to give a shout out to is Lieutenant Colonel Arlene Collazo.  I hope I got that last name about right.  I don’t know if she is out here, but I understand she is about to retire today at about 1530.  And after about 21 years of military service, that’s a long time.  That’s over two decades.  I would like to hear a round of applause for Arlene for all she has done. (clapping).  Her job here is Chief of the Command Post for Air Force Global Strike I am to understand.  And the reason why I also salute that is because it doesn’t matter to me how many years people put in uniform, we have an all-volunteer force, and every year is precious.  And I don’t take it for granted.  So when you start adding up that number of years, to me that really means something. 

But each and every one of you wake up every day.  You put on your uniform.  You come in to work as part of the world’s greatest all-volunteer force, and to me that is something special to be a part of.  So as we get the show on the road here, associated with the trophies, just know how thankful I am for your service to our country; how thankful I am to the families that support you; and how thankful I am for the communities.  And that’s what gives me hope that our country will still continue to steam forward in these very uncertain times and work toward the peace and security that supports our democratic values.  Thank you for hearing me out, and I know most of you want to hear me stop talking so we can present those trophies.  Thank you for your service.