Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ) Assumption of Command Ceremony
Yokota Air Base, Japan
October 6, 2016
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s truly my pleasure and honor to welcome Jerry and Kim Martinez to beautiful Japan -- especially on such an important occasion. I know Kim’s not with us, but will be here soon.
Jerry, I'm confident that you will make the most of this opportunity to lead our Joint Force and deepen our nation’s alliance with Japan. And since you and Shags are proud graduates of the Air Force Academy, I appreciate you both not mentioning the football game last Saturday in Colorado Springs.
Folks, I’m mindful of the two types of speakers one might encounter at a ceremony like this – those who never stop to think, and those who never think to stop. I’ll do my best not to be either.
Let me begin by saying again how honored I am to be part of this ceremony welcoming a great Airman and leader – Lieutenant General Jerry Martinez – to the important task of commanding all U.S. Forces in Japan, as well as the mighty and legendary 5th Air Force.
We now live in a world where we must think, learn, and fight jointly – and rightfully so. As I look out at the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen of USFJ, it’s important to highlight the degree to which our military has evolved into the most powerful joint fighting force the world has ever seen.
But make no mistake about it – today is an Air Force day. Today, we go back to Service roots and take special note of what lies at the very heart of the Airman’s profession – the exercise of command and the execution of air power.
This ceremony represents the continuing recognition, indeed celebration, of who we are and what we value as military leaders – the absolute nature of accountability and the art of leadership.
Mark Twain once said, ‘Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.’ Today, I’m blessed to have the opportunity to speak about three such good examples – Soak Dolan, Chuck Chiarotti, and Jerry Martinez.
Even though Lieutenant General Dolan departed the pattern a few months ago, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight just a few of the remarkable accomplishments that occurred on his watch. His leadership while he and Nancy were in Japan was spectacular.
A true statesmen, Soak ensured that our alliance with Japan remained strong. He worked tirelessly with the Japanese government and Ambassador Kennedy to improve the effectiveness of our Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. Most notably, he directed negotiations that established meaningful bilateral planning and alliance coordination mechanisms. This important step to operationalize the new Defense Guidelines formalized previous ad hoc arrangements and allowed the alliance coordination mechanism to be used during regional crises.
And make no mistake about it, these procedures are not paper tigers – they’ve been tested by North Korea’s recent provocative actions. Our alliance resolve remains rock solid.
Soak also led negotiations over the high-profile plan to realign some of the U.S. bases in Okinawa. This negotiation resulted in a bilateral agreement to both accelerate the return of U.S. military land to the government of Japan and maintain our critical ability to train our forces on Okinawa. On a deeper level, the Okinawa realignment demonstrates the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance and our capacity for cooperation and compromise.
Soak left Japan in August well-prepared to become the Director of Operations on our Joint Staff in the Pentagon -- I can think of no better fit for such an important job.
Lucky for us, Major General Chuck Chiarotti had recently come aboard as the new Deputy Commander, and he stepped up to fill the gap when Soak was called to D.C. – which shouldn't come as a surprise because Marines are always ready to step into the breech and answer the call to lead. But this is especially true of Chuck.
I knew I could count on him. Under his outstanding leadership, U.S. Forces Japan didn't miss a beat. Thanks Chuck – you made us all proud. I’m pleased that you’ll continue your fine work as the Deputy Commander here.
As I alluded to earlier, our Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with Japan is critical to the overall U.S. engagement in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. U.S. Forces Japan derives its mission from this treaty and the resulting presence of over 50,000 U.S. troops stationed throughout Japan.
The commander must continuously evaluate the regional security environment and work with the Japanese government and other U.S. agencies. This is no easy task.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has identified five strategic, and very real, global challenges to U.S. security that drive our defense planning and budgeting –North Korea, China, Russia, the Islamic State or ISIL, and Iran. And guess what? Four of these challenges are resident in this neighborhood.
As the only nation to have tested nuclear weapons this century, North Korea stands out as our most immediate threat. Last month’s nuclear test, North Korea's largest ever and second this year, follows an unprecedented campaign of provocations including ballistic missile launches, which Pyongyang claims are intended to serve as delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons targeting the United States and our allies, Japan and South Korea.
I know there’s some debate about the miniaturization advancements made by Pyongyang. But PACOM must be ready to fight tonight, so I take them at their word. I must assume their claims are true – their aspirations certainly are.
So we must consider every possible step to defend the U.S. homeland and defend our allies. That’s why I continue to emphasize trilateral cooperation between Japan, South Korea and the United States. And that’s why all nations must continue to rally the international community to loudly condemn North Korea’s aberrational behavior and be prepared to counter this challenge.
Fortunately, the men and women assigned to U.S. Forces Japan -- U.S. Army Japan, III Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, and the 5th Air Force – are ready.
And Lieutenant General Martinez is about to become their commander.
Jerry is coming to us from Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois where he was the Director of Operations. His training and experience in operating a massive and truly global force of mobility aircraft will enable him to provide us with a fresh look on our work in Japan.
I won’t read Jerry's bio to you, but I will highlight some of the heavy lifting jobs -- pun intended – he’s done to get him to this point. He’s not only a command pilot with more than 4,000 hours flying our nation’s largest aircraft, but he’s worked with our partners around the world to deepen those relationships.
His recent efforts in NATO shows the depth of his knowledge as it relates to strengthening the bonds that make allied forces interoperable. He’s also no stranger to our nation's ongoing war fights. He spent time in Afghanistan tackling the tough political-military affairs issues that often mean the difference between success or failure of joint and combined military operations.
General Martinez knows well how to deepen partnerships and strengthen alliances.
Jerry, I’m thrilled to see you take the controls here in Japan. It’s telling that we send officers of the highest caliber to command in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. It’s another indicator of America's commitment to the Rebalance and this vital region.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve talked too long. Since it’s October already and the Japan Series begins in a couple of weeks, I’m reminded of a baseball story where the home team was getting shelled in the first inning. The manager walks out of the dugout directly to the mound and takes the ball from the pitcher.
The pitcher protests, ‘Coach, I’m not tired.’ The manager -- with a practiced eye – says, ‘Yeah, I know…but the outfielders sure are.’
So, for all you outfielders out there, let me close by simply saying ‘thanks.’
Chuck, thanks for your outstanding leadership these past couple of months.
Jerry, thanks for taking on the awesome responsibility of leading our Joint Force here in Japan.
And finally, to the men and women of U.S. Forces Japan, thanks for everything you do to advance our national interests. What you do on a daily basis matters to U.S. Pacific Command, to our allies and partners around the region, and to our nation.
May God bless the men and women serving our country in harm’s way across the globe, may God bless the Martinez and Chiarotti families, and may God bless Japan and the United States of America. Thank you very much.