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SPEECH | March 31, 2016

Retirement Ceremony

(As prepared)

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command:  Distinguished guests, friends and family, men and women of the Joint Warfare Analysis Center, good morning!  It’s great to be back at Dahlgren, and it’s tremendous to see so many here to salute Bob Tolhurst’s 38 years of dedicated and faithful service to our nation. 

Bob, thanks for that kind introduction.  It’s an honor and privilege to preside over your retirement ceremony, and to be here on this special day with you and your wonderful family.

Pixie, you have supported Bob throughout nearly 47 years of marriage.  Congratulations on that upcoming milestone.   I know, however, there were likely significant sacrifices, particularly during your 26 years of service as a Navy family.  I don’t take that for granted, and I know Bob doesn’t either.  Thank you for all you have done throughout his career.

Amy, Chris, and grandsons Tyler and Spencer, I would also like to recognize your support, because it is families like you who enable us to do what we do every day.  Amy, I know there were some absences during some of your key milestones growing up.  Know that your love and support has contributed to your dad’s success.  I know you are very proud of him, just as he is of you.

Those who have served in the military know tremendous support our “issued” families provide us, so it’s fantastic to have Rick and Judy Woodworth here from Virginia.  Bob met Rick almost 51 years ago – on their first day of “Plebe Summer” at the Naval Academy – and have been friends ever since.  I dare say you have some fond memories of waiting in line to get your blue-rimmed “dixie cup”, your blue-rimmed t-shirt and the “white works”, that all cadets just love to get dirty.

Given the size of this audience, there are many other people I could point out, but for the sake of time, let me just recognize the incredible men and women of JWAC.  Thank you and your families for your service, and the contributions you make to our country each and every day! 

You are part of an organization that is rich with history.  I would argue that some of what JWAC does now has its roots in WWII with operational research efforts by both the U.S. Army Air Forces and the United States Navy.  Both services conducted extensive studies to identify which critical infrastructures would cause the enemy most damage, if lost.

Now, I realize that because of the highly classified nature of this organization, there are probably a few in this audience today, who may not realize the importance of this command’s contributions to our joint military force today.

Make no mistake, the JWAC’s high-demand, low-density assets are highly sought after across the joint force and the intelligence community, to include some of the mission areas USSTRATCOM is working on.

Without a doubt, JWAC has provided innovative and “out of the box” thinking.  It’s ability to solve complex challenges for our nation's warfighters – using a combination of social and physical science techniques and engineering expertise – is invaluable to protecting the nation and helping the joint force accomplish its missions.

From operational modelling; effects-based precision targeting options; support for the campaign against ISIL; to aiding the planning efforts of our combatant commanders – the men and women of JWAC have directly supported operations around the globe in garden spots like Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Iraq.

Behind each of these successes has been the stalwart leadership of Bob Tolhurst – who as many know, has been has been a part of JWAC, in some shape or form, since its inception in 1990.  He was, of course, JWACs very first commander.

Bob has, without a doubt, grown and forged this organization into what it is today.  In 1990, there were 24 people on the payroll.  Today, there are nearly 400. 

Over the years, he has worked with multiple commanders, led hundreds of incredibly educated professionals, established critical partnerships with weapons developers and the intelligence community, and has engaged at some very senior levels of our government.  He developed a technical environment that values and stimulates capability advancement, and he has rejuvenated JWAC’s engagement plan, sharing new initiatives with combatant commanders.

He has what we term “institutional” knowledge.  In other words he is very well informed, knows where all the office gossip is, and where all the skeletons are.  Seriously, I could not have been more thankful for his wisdom and sage advice during my time as deputy commander, as we realigned JWAC under USSTRATCOM.

Since then, I have been extremely impressed with his tremendous foresight in confronting uncertainty with agility and innovation – which is so important, given the many challenges we face across the geographic regions.

While I could continue to list Bob’s accomplishments, and there are many, there is no greater testimony of his leadership than that of those he worked with.  Let me share a couple:

  • Mr. Tolhurst serves as the command historian, demonstrated by his unbelievable ability to recite every detail of meetings and decisions that have shaped JWAC.
  • Bob Tolhurst’s commitment to JWAC, the Department of Defense and our nation has been unwavering.
  • His love for JWAC is second only to the compassion for the employees – creating the JWAC family and his daily presence will be missed by all.
  • Mr. Tolhurst’s leadership is defined by passion for the organization, compassion for people, and willingness to tackle any challenge to better JWAC.  He searches to find solutions by bringing people together to find a common goal.
  • I will miss the spelling and grammar competitions.  Nine times out of ten he was correct and I was able to learn a new “word of the day.”
  • Bob does not know the meaning of the words “impossible task.”  He does not know the meaning of taking a break, and he does not know the meaning of the word “no.”  Clearly, I should have bought you a dictionary.

Bob, you will be sorely missed. You joined the Navy because you wanted not only wanted to serve your country, you wanted to follow in your dad’s footsteps…almost.  Your dad was an Air Force pilot, and gave you some sound advice that I am glad you followed.  He told you to join the Navy.  You did, and you had a remarkable career as an A-6 pilot and as an SES.

During your 38 years – in and out of uniform – you made significant contributions to our country: 

  • From flying 188 combat missions in Vietnam,
  • Sinking a Libyan Missile patrol boat that was attacking US ships,
  • Aiding the forced landing of an aircraft carrying terrorists attempting to hijack the Achille Lauro boat
  • To operationalizing the genesis of JWAC:  weaponizing special technologies and creating infrastructure targeting analysis that was first demonstrated in Desert Storm and has been used in every armed conflict since.

You leave behind a tremendous legacy – not just the accomplishments of this organization, but with the cadre of strategic warriors you built. 

You have successfully led and mentored them, and fostered many relationships that will stay with you long after you begin this new chapter of life.  The goals you have set and achieved are impressive and have improved this organization for well into the future.

I know you are retiring with goals that are not yet accomplished.  Given the complexity of the world in which we live, the work will never be done.  But you can pass the torch, knowing you have made positive changes directly impacting the readiness and operational effectiveness of our warfighters. 
Thanks to your extraordinary efforts, JWAC has a stellar reputation.  There is no other place that provides these premier science and engineering capabilities to help solve the world’s most complex challenges.  You should be justifiably proud. 

So, seize today and cherish some quality time with the important people around you – and perhaps that new corvette I understand you bought.  You may be trying to capture a bit of your youth in the auto world.  Perhaps you are feeling “the need…the need for speed.”

Pixie – I know you are ready to have Bob home with you, but I must warn you –  a retired husband is often a wife’s full-time job.

I do hope, however, you will do more of the things you like to do together – such as travelling and spending some well-earned quality time with your family – especially with Tyler and Spencer.
Tyler and Spencer, I hear your grandfather is pretty competitive…no matter whether it’s karate, cornhole, ping pong or racing.  So, I challenge you both to keep him on his toes.

Fair winds and following seas to this remarkable family.  Thank you again for 38 years of distinguished service to the United States Navy, the United States Air Force, our federal government, and a grateful nation.

Thank you all and may God continue to bless our joint military force and the United States of America.