Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
MARFORPAC Change of Command
Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay
August 26, 2016
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen...
A special shout-out to Helen Toolan, Jocko's very own Yellow Rose of Texas: Your unwavering support and dedication throughout your husband’s amazing career have allowed John to do what he loves – to lead Marines across four decades. Your love of the Corps is clear as well. You're a founding member of the Semper Fi Fund, which continues to provide immediate financial assistance to our wounded servicemen and women and their families... so please, ladies and gentlemen: another round of applause.
And to Donna Berger: Welcome to our PACOM ohana and thank you for your support of Dave throughout his distinguished career, as he takes on this awesome new responsibility of leading our Pacific Marines.
Folks, as I look around to size up this audience, it’s clear that John Toolan has many friends and well-wishers. So I’ll try not to confuse seating capacity with listening capacity... and I’ll plan to keep my remarks short.
As wonderful as it is to celebrate with family and friends, it’s important to remind everyone why we conduct this change of command ceremony. It’s not for the guests, it’s not for the families, and it's certainly not for me. No, this ceremony is for the troops. It’s for our Pacific Marines.
Today is the day that we bid fair winds and following seas to one of the great leaders in the Marine Corps. A legendary leader of Marines... a legendary combat leader.
At the same time, we welcome another tremendous leader to the crucible of Component Command.
This is a Marine Corps day... make no mistake about it. For even though we now live in a world where we must think, learn, and fight jointly – and rightfully so – today, we go back to our roots and take special note of what lies at the very heart of the Marine Corps: leading Marines in combat.
Today’s ceremony is one of our most cherished and important traditions. It 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.
So this ceremony is for you – the men and women, the Marines and Sailors of MARFORPAC – to witness the passing of command responsibility from one officer to another. These ceremonies connect our histories in an unbroken chain.
From 1775, when the Second Continental Congress decreed that two battalions of Marines be raised in support of our Nation’s revolutionary birth… to the defeat of the Barbary pirates… to Veracruz, Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima, Chosin, Hue City, Fallujah, Helmand Province... an unbroken chain of valor and service.
In fact, Chesty Puller himself once commented on what separated the ‘Old Breed’ from the ‘New Breed.’ He said that there's no difference, as long as it’s the ‘Marine Breed’.
What did this crusty, five-time Navy Cross recipient mean when he said ‘Marine Breed’? I think he meant that Marines exude toughness. They never quit. They are Semper Fidelis… always faithful.
These traits have existed in the ‘Marine Breed’ at every moment in the Corps’ celebrated history, making the distinction between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ meaningless. And that’s why our Devil Dogs are legendary throughout the world.
John and Dave are the ‘Marine Breed’ and more. They are officers of character, whose backgrounds and achievements are simply incredible.
A glance at General Toolan’s bio is a retelling of some of our Nation’s fiercest battles. Time and again he answered the call to lead in combat zones.
He was in Iraq in Desert Storm with the 2nd Light Armored Infantry Battalion. During a tour at NATO Headquarters, John focused his talents on Operation ALLIED FORCE in Bosnia and Kosovo. He returned to the sound of the guns at the start of Iraqi Freedom to lead his regiment’s combat crossing of the Diyala River as our forces converged on Baghdad in 2003. He led Marines in the First Battle of Fallujah in 2004… and in Afghanistan he led our forces in the Helmand Province in 2011.
John Toolan is a warrior through and through. The ‘Marine Breed’ for sure.
And from what I’ve heard, he’s become one of the most famous tribal dancers in all of Afghanistan. Not to mention his famous rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. I've got to see that before I leave today.
Folks, I've watched John and his Marines closely during my time in command and one thing is crystal clear: I’m glad the Marines are on our side. These fine men and women represent the very best of our country. They're a powerful reminder of the values that kept America strong through the ages... and will keep us strong well into the future. I'm proud to serve with you.
Those of you standing behind me wearing the globe, eagle, and anchor know that it’s a badge of honor. The iconic Marine slogans that we’ve all heard are austere, non-apologetic representations of what one can look forward to when he or she joins the Corps:
We don’t promise you a rose garden.
We don’t accept applications -- only commitments.
Earned. Never given.
I could stand here all day and name the defining personalities in Marine Corps lore that exemplify these slogans… names that you already know. Instead, I’ll cut to the chase. All of the stories have one thing in common: leadership… under pressure… in combat.
Marine Corps presence around the world not only keeps America safe, but also maintains peace and stability in an uncertain world. This is because we have selfless leaders like Generals Dunford, Toolan, and Berger, and Sergeant Major Paul McKenna. Marines are always “all-in.”
John, you led your Marines and Sailors well and provided them with the vision that, time and again, brought success to MARFORPAC – the largest operational command in the Marine Corps.
You worked hard to implement our nation’s strategic Rebalance to the Pacific. It wasn’t going to happen by just coming to work every day and simply checking off boxes on a list. No, you looked at the bigger strategic picture and matched the fiscal realities of today to the challenges we’ll see tomorrow.
You created, strengthened, and preserved relationships with nations throughout our theater… literally from Hollywood to Bollywood. For example, down under in Australia, you directed the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin to conduct more inclusive and realistic training. Australia is a critical ally that I depend upon in peace and in crisis. Your success led to the signing of the Force Posture Agreement that broadened and deepened the U.S. – Australia alliance’s commitment to security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
As a Coordinating Authority for our efforts in the Philippines, your fingerprints there are everywhere: from the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement to our important bilateral exercise series Balikatan.
You defined what effective command and control looks like and ensured our ability to ‘fight tonight.’
Another tangible example of the strategic scope of your vision and handiwork is evident in the PACOM Amphibious Leaders Symposium, or PALS. The second iteration of this event wrapped up in July. Amphibious forces from 20 nations got together to discuss how they could improve their craft: projecting power from the sea. The results? More collaboration and deeper partnerships throughout the region that strengthen our security network of amphibious forces. This is “amphibiosity.”
You worked with Admiral Swift and the Pacific Fleet to make the Navy-Marine Corps team tighter and strengthened our joint ability to project power from the sea. Amphibiosity is now a critical component of our nation’s strategic Rebalance to the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
And one of John’s more obscure accomplishments, ladies and gentlemen, is that he was a Marine Corps professor at U. Penn back in the 80’s where he taught then-Midshipman Mark Montgomery. Rear Admiral Montgomery is now my outstanding J-3 in charge of all PACOM operations.
Come to think of it, John…there might be a few people who now want to blame you for Monty's successes, so maybe I should’ve left out that part.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is no doubt about General Toolan’s impact on this region and on the Marine Corps. I've been told by some really smart people that giants no longer walk the earth. They may be right… but as you can see, John Toolan has left some huge footprints.
As General Berger steps up to follow you, I know that he is more than capable of blazing his own independent, impactful trail. Coming to us from command of I MEF, Dave is a combat-tested leader. In more than three decades of service, he’s led Marines from the front in every clime and place and at all levels. From Operation Desert Storm to Operation Secure Tomorrow in Haiti to Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He knows that hard work is its own reward and has what it takes to do this job. And he understands well the opportunities and dangers resident in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
And although he won’t admit it, as an infantry officer, he knows that no matter which way you have to march, it’s always uphill.
Now, I realize that I’ve talked far longer than all of you wanted. As a student of history, I’m keenly aware that perhaps the greatest speech ever given was President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address – and it lasted just over two minutes. And one of the longest ever delivered was by Socrates, who was poisoned by his listeners.
So before Sergeant Major McKenna gets any ideas, I’ll wrap up my remarks by simply saying thanks.
Jocko, thanks: for the leadership you provided to our Pacific Marines and for your counsel on the tough issues that we’ve tackled together. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank you for the four decades of your life devoted to the Corps in defense of our nation. Forty years... that’s a long time. Coincidentally it’s just a bit more time than the Grand Old Man of the Marine Corps, Archibald Henderson, spent as Commandant.
It’s also great to know that in those four decades you didn’t lose your Brooklyn accent -- which I'm sure this audience will hear soon when you give your remarks.
Dave, thanks for accepting the awesome responsibility of leading our Marines in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. We’re happy to have you and Donna join the PACOM ohana.
And last but certainly not least, to the men and women of MARFORPAC and all the Marines serving in the Indo-Asia-Pacific: thanks for everything you do to defend our homeland and advance our national interests. What you do on a daily basis matters. It matters to the U.S. Pacific Command, it matters to our allies and partners around the region, and it matters to our nation.
May God bless all of our Marines across the globe who boldly go into harm's way. May God bless the Toolan and Berger families. May God bless this gorgeous, this beautiful, this wonderful State of Hawaii, and may God continue to bless the beacon of freedom that we call America. Thank you very much.