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Home : Media : Speeches / Testimony
NEWS | May 12, 2017

SOCPAC Change of Command

By ADM Harry B. Harris, Jr. U.S. Pacific Command

Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command

SOCPAC Change of Command
Camp Smith, Hawaii
May 12, 2017
As Delivered

Before I start, I’d like to make a few acknowledgements:

• Our Gold Star family, retired Colonel David and Mary Joe Brostrom join us today. We’re honored by your presence…

• Members of the Consular and Diplomatic Corps…

• General Thomas…General Bramlett...

• Fellow flag and general officers…

• Senior Enlisted Leaders…

• Distinguished guests…

• Men and women of Special Operations Command Pacific…

• Friends and family of Major General – Promotable – Bryan Fenton. By the way, you know Bryan, what we call a Lieutenant General-select around here? Major General. It seems like I was using the same joke just last year when you were a 1-star.

To the Fenton family, Dawn and daughters Cece and Nora, your support and sacrifices enabled Bryan's accomplishments here at SOCPAC. Thank you for consoling him when Notre Dame lost to Navy on the gridiron last season.

Dawn, I’d like to personally thank you for taking such good care of our SOCPAC families while leading the Family Readiness Group. And speaking of the Fighting Irish, following high school graduation this summer, Nora will continue the family tradition and head to Notre Dame to study business. And Cece, a high school sophomore, will be on one of the few teams representing Hawaii in the Beach Volleyball National Championships in California. And Bryan’s parents are here as well, all the way from the great state of Tennessee. So, if any of you have a hard time understanding me, they will gladly interpret for you.

The Yoo family cheering section is also well-represented. To Dan’s wife Grace, know that your unwavering commitment for over 2 decades has allowed him to do what’s required to continue to serve his country at critical points in our history. And it’s great to have Alex, a high school junior, with us today. He’s quite the football player as well. Last season his team Cathedral Catholic won the California State 1-AA Football Championship.

I’d also like to welcome the rest of Dan’s family: his mother Sun Grace, sister and brother-in-law, Mia and Tim, sister Tae, and his sister and his nephew, Alice and Bennett.

Ladies and gentlemen, 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 try to keep that in mind and do my best not to be either.

So folks, I'm deeply honored to have this opportunity to be a part of this ceremony.

As wonderful as it is to celebrate with family, it’s important to remind everyone here why we conduct a change of command ceremony. It’s not for the guests. It’s not for the families. It’s certainly not for me.

No, this ceremony is for the troops. It’s for our special operators, with the emphasis on special.

We're a country of around 320 million Americans. Of these, less than one half of one percent wears the Cloth of our Nation -- the uniform of our Armed Services. And of these who serve, just five percent wear the badges of our Special Operations Forces, which means that only about two one hundredths of one percent of our population can count themselves as members of this elite group. Special, indeed.

Today we bid fair winds and following seas to one of the great leaders in the Army Special Forces community. At the same time, we welcome another tremendous leader to the crucible of command at SOCPAC. And, this is a Joint day, make no mistake about it. For today we live in a world where we must think, learn, and fight jointly, and rightfully so.

Today we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to reflect on our roots and take special note of what lies at the very heart of our profession -- the exercise of command.

This ceremony, and all it represents, has not simply been one of our most cherished and important traditions, it represents the continuing recognition, indeed celebration, of who we are and what we value as a Joint Force – the absolute nature of accountability, and the art of leadership.

So this ceremony is for you -- the men and women of SOCPAC -- to witness the passing of command from one fine officer to another.

Machiavelli once said that people ‘for the most part follow in the footsteps and imitate the actions of others…’ Well, ladies and gentlemen, if you’re looking for someone to emulate, look no further than to the two fine generals seated on the stage.

They are men of extraordinary character, whose backgrounds and achievements are simply incredible, as their bios will tell you. And, please, do read their bios, as I’m sure these two selfless patriots would prefer I talk about something else other than them.

But I’d be doing everyone here a disservice if I passed up the opportunity to say a few words about them in public.

So I’ve watched Bryan Fenton lead his SOCPAC team closely over the past year and I've taken to heart a fundamental truth. SOCPAC remains a team of superstars who willingly give of themselves for the betterment of our nation and our allies and our partners across the vast Indo-Asia-Pacific.

You’re a high-performance team and a band of brothers and sisters who exemplify the very best about our country. And you’re a powerful reminder of the values and personal sacrifice that kept America strong through the ages, and will keep us strong well into the future. The world is a dangerous place, now more than ever. Navy SEAL Senior Chief Kyle Milliken embodied those values, and his death last week during an operation against al-Shabaab in Somalia reminds us of the risk and sacrifice inherent in the job that our Special Operators do every day to keep our enemies at bay.

Yours is a community of heroes, and I'm proud to serve with you.

Successful organizations, led by enlightened commanders, succeed over and over again. Most importantly, high performance organizations like SOCPAC are driven by leaders who share credit, delegate authority, but accept total accountability.

I often say that if you get command and control right, everything falls into place. Bryan got it right with SOCPAC’s new Mission Command structure to synchronize our Joint operators with interagency and international elements in the region to tackle shared challenges.

This was the centerpiece of his vision to shift SOCPAC’s focus to the appropriate level while harnessing assigned and aligned commands for tactical operations and activities. This initiative comes at a critical time as our nation deals with challenges from revisionist states and terrorist organizations in the region.

At the same time, General Fenton made sure that the SOCPAC operations directorate and Logistics Support Facility in Singapore were reorganized to have meaningful effects at the operational level.

You’ve also reassured us that SOCPAC can ‘fight tonight’ to defend our homeland by deepening interagency collaboration during complex exercises designed to test our responses to terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction crises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

Folks, I’d love to tell you more, but the humble warriors here in the audience would probably ‘take me for a walk’…if you know what I mean.

These accomplishments, although merely a sampling, are tremendous.

Bryan, you’ve done well and can be confident that the work you’ve left unfinished will continue when Dan takes the conn in a few minutes.

For those of you who don’t know why I’m so confident that this work will continue, it’s because General Fenton will become PACOM’s 32nd Deputy Commander as soon as we conclude this ceremony.

So Bryan, I took a little time to help you out a bit before you report to work up on the 5th deck – in about 30 minutes…enjoy that half-hour with no responsibilities.

So I called Tony Crutchfield, the former Deputy here, for some advice for you. He told me he didn’t leave you much in the way of a turnover. In fact he left a couple of months ago.

But he did leave three envelopes in your desk drawer. And he said to open them, one at a time, but only when things get tough.

Well, Tony always gave me great advice, so I peeked in those envelopes.

The first one said, ‘Blame your predecessor.’ Well, that worked for me – I’m still blaming Sam Locklear for everything I do wrong.

Envelope 2 said, ‘Blame your staff.’ But that’s risky business that’ll only get you so far.

And then Tony told me, when the going gets really hard, when the Boss keeps showing up and asking ‘how’s it going’, when the dog barks at you when you come home…well, then open the third envelope. In there, Tony wrote, ‘Prepare three envelopes.’

Bryan, I’ll cut to the chase: I tossed the first two envelopes and you just need to hang on to that third envelope.

By the way, how’s it going?

Now folks, all joking aside, Bryan’s appointment is important. In PACOM’s illustrious history, across 70 years, we’ve had 31 Deputies, and there’s never been a Special Operator. Bryan Fenton will be that first one. I think this point not only proves what kind of outstanding leader General Fenton is, but it also demonstrates the value that I place on the work by our SOCPAC warriors. And considering our global fight against the scourge to humanity known as ISIS, I think the time is right for this historic appointment.

Indeed, SOCPAC demands our nation’s finest leaders. Leaders like Major General Dan Yoo. His reputation precedes him. He’s coming to us from Tampa, where he was the Director of Operations at U.S. Special Operations Command. Dan Yoo knows what ‘fight tonight’ means…he’s been doing just that with General Thomas and the whole SOCOM team.

I’m glad a national hero like General Tony Thomas is joining us here today, although right now he may be thinking about a way to get Dan back to Tampa. Too late!

While the SOCOM team may be sad to see Dan Yoo leave, I couldn’t be more excited to have him take command at SOCPAC.

He’s a combat-tested Marine who’s led Marines at all levels, including command of a rifle platoon all the way up to command of the entire 1st Marine Division.

And since this is a historic day of firsts, it’s also worth highlighting that Dan Yoo has become the first Marine commander of a Theater Special Operations Command, or T-SOC, ever.

And that’s because Dan has taken our toughest jobs. In 2014, for instance, he commanded Regional Command Southwest in the Helmand and Nimroz Provinces in Afghanistan. He’s a warrior to the core and is up to the challenge to ensure the ISIS plague doesn’t spread in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

So ladies and gentlemen, I've talked too long. I’m reminded of a recent event where Bruni and I were downtown and I gave a dinner-time speech. Afterwards, as we were leaving, one of the ladies said to me, ‘Admiral, I really enjoyed your remarks. I woke up so refreshed.’

So regardless of whether you just woke up, or whether you were paying attention, I hope you walk away today knowing that our nation continues to send its best leaders to critical jobs in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. So, I’ll close by simply saying thanks.

Bryan, thanks for your leadership and for being a trusted confidant. I’m excited to see you tackle the challenges we face in your new role.

Dan, thanks for taking on the awesome responsibility of leading our special operations forces across half the planet.

And finally, to the men and women of SOCPAC, thanks for everything you do to defend our homeland and 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 all of our special operations forces across the globe who boldly go into harm's way, may God bless the Fenton and Yoo families, and may God continue to bless the beacon of freedom that we call America.

Thank you very much.


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