Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
25th Infantry Division 75th Anniversary Commemoration Review
Schofield Barracks, HI
October 6, 2016
Ladies and gentlemen, Major General Cavoli is very curious about what I’m going to say in my remarks today – specifically, whether or not a salty ol' Admiral will address this fine division without uttering the 'H' word that’s sometimes disparaged in Navy circles.
No... not Harry or Harris -- although those are, indeed, fine H words.
That’s right, it's hoo-ah. I said I wouldn’t do it, but put yourselves in my shoes for a second. Imagine standing up here and looking at this outstanding crowd. It’s hard to express the motivation that I see out there today any other way... so, HOO-AH!
There... Chris, you win.
As a movie lover, it’s great to see the backdrop from a great film... From Here to Eternity. My guess is that many of you who've had to deal with long-winded speakers felt like some ceremonies lasted an eternity... so I'll get on with it so you can get on with it.
I’m truly honored to be part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of America’s Pacific Division, the 25th I.D.
This division’s history is representative of America’s commitments around the globe since the day World War II was brought to our doorstep... December 7, 1941... just two short months after the 25th I.D. was formed.
History’s attention is often focused down the mountain on Pearl Harbor as a result of the devastation that our nation endured on that day. But many people are unaware of the Japanese attack that killed and injured Tropic Lighting soldiers here at Schofield Barracks.
We remember, and we will never forget.
This Division responded by swiftly taking part in some of World War II’s most vicious battles... Guadalcanal, Vella Lavella, and Luzon to name a few.
In the post-World War II era, soldiers stationed right here at Schofield Barracks went on to see action in some of the most gnarly fights imaginable in Korea, Vietnam, and most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tropic Lightning soldiers possess a heroic heritage. The evidence is clear: 41 Medal of Honor recipients... 6 in World War II... 14 in Korea... 21 in Vietnam.
For those veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War here with us today: thank you for your service and for the sacrifices you made in the defense of our nation.
Your reputation lives on in the fine soldiers who have fought in our nations wars in the Middle East and continue to serve today.
These heroes headline your legacy, but the subtitle honors the everyday actions of those in this unit with whom they served. You’ve every right to be proud of this tradition.
In addition to fighting our nation’s battles, Tropic Lightning has demonstrated a real talent for implementing innovative solutions to our America's strategic challenges. Pacific Pathways and Lightning Academy are two prominent examples that are important to the Joint Force here in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
Pacific Pathways demonstrates how quickly and effectively we can turn a good idea into a relevant operational concept. This annual exercise series, now in its third iteration, deploys scalable operational units to nations throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific to participate in military exercises with the host-nation’s forces. These deployments have occurred in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia to name just a few countries.
And since these forces are forward deployed, it gives me, the Joint Force Commander, flexible options to respond to real world events... like humanitarian assistance in the event of a natural disaster.
Actual presence in this vast region can mean the difference between life and death for those affected by such an event.
There’s really no substitute for the actual presence of well-trained forces in contingencies that pop-up in this dynamic region.
Lightning Academy is another example that takes advantage of two of our most unique resources: the Hawaiian jungle and the Army’s fabled N.C.O. leadership and expertise. This battle lab brings in servicemen and women from the joint force and from our partner nations.
The training that occurs here is relevant to the environment in which we operate throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific: vast oceans with many countries covered in dense jungle.
The Jungle Operations Training Course taught at Lightning Academy is a telling tribute to the Division’s heritage. The NCOs running the show out there are helping our nation’s Rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific in a big way by improving unit tactical skills that foster an environment of teamwork and cooperation.
This is particularly true of the Adaptive Leader Course that’s in high demand in the Armies throughout the region. Our allied and partner nation senior defense officials want to create the type of enlisted leaders we cherish here in the U.S. And this organization is helping them to do so.
At their core, Pacific Pathways and Lightning Academy improve trust and interoperability with our partner nation military forces.
Both meet requests for increased engagement, provide focused training, and employ our most ready U.S. Army units in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
The relationships you’ve built with these two innovative programs will pay dividends when the need arises for us to respond to crisis together with our allies and partners throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific. Relationships like these are critical in today’s complex world.
I challenge you to keep pushing hard to develop, field, and implement innovative operational concepts that ensure we maintain our edge as the world’s finest fighting force. Our nation’s commitment to this region is expressed in your work.
A famous prophet-slash-philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said, “It’s tough to make predictions... especially about the future.”
Keeping that in mind, there’s one prediction that I can make with complete confidence. The 25th I.D. will continue to be an important part of America’s security into the future.
And I don’t think that makes me a prophet... just an observer with good old Army horse sense and an eye that recognizes talent in our Joint Force.
Folks, before I close, I recognize that I’ve said a lot of nice things about the Army today... I even said hoo-ah. But come December 10th, when Army meets Navy on the gridiron for the 117th time... I’ll deny every last word I just said!
I’m not trying to rub it in, but it looks like 15 straight wins for Navy is in the cards... I’ll now pause for booing.
In all seriousness, the Division looks great and represents our nation well. I’m proud of what you all do on a daily basis... important work that protects our homeland. And on a personal note, I’m proud to be your teammate.
May God bless all of our servicemen and women across the globe who go boldly into harm's way. May God bless America’s Pacific Division and the loved ones that support it. May God bless all those veterans in attendance who have worn the cloth of our nation... and may God continue to bless the beacon of freedom we call America. Thank you very much.