10.30.10 - REMARKS BY ADM. JAMES WINNEFELD at the 235th Marine Corps Ball, New Orleans, La.
….(initial words not recorded)….
The other thing I want to say is that it’s very rare for me to speak with the lion’s share of the audience at my back. But I know the Marines have my back…and they have America’s back…so thank you! (applause)
Councilwoman Clarkson, Deputy Mayor Sneed, Mr. Jakes, LtGen Kelly, LtGen Bergman, other general officers, Sergeant Major Davis, Master Chief Porter, honored guests, ladies, gentlemen…and Marines! (applause)
It is an honor to stand before you tonight to address a group of meat-eaters such as yourselves on this, the celebration of 235 years of distinguished Marine Corps service.
My compliments, by the way, to a fantastic band, and Color Guard, and “Cake” Guard! (laughter)
Looking around tonight has only confirmed for me that--in the words of an old Marine Corps friend of mine--hair is the enemy of the United States Marine Corps. (laughter)
But it’s also confirmed for me that male Marines somehow manage to attract the prettiest girls. (shouts of agreement)
I know that I’m the only thing standing between you and a great meal. This is another wonderful Marine Corps tradition--you have to speak before you eat! (laughter)
It’s probably a good thing that we’re all down here in New Orleans, and not running the Marine Corps Marathon tomorrow, because I know the meal’s going to be very good! (laughter)
I also look forward in a few moments to the traditional cake-cutting ceremony, although it’s daunting to me that I’m actually older than the oldest Marine! (laughter)
This year also celebrates 235 years of sea service partnership between the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps. Since 1925, Marines have commemorated their 10 November Tun Tavern origins in celebrations such as this around the globe.
While the three worst things you could hear from a Marine are: a Lance Corporal saying “watch this!”…a Second Lieutenant saying “based on my experience”…or a Major saying “I have an idea,” one of the best things you can hear from a Marine is “Happy Birthday, Marine!” (cheering and applause)
I know I’m standing in the shoes of many speakers who have been privileged to speak on this important occasion, from combat-tested veterans to retired Sergeants Major and political dignitaries.
The fact that an old sea-salt such as myself has been invited to speak at this--the best Marine Corps Ball in the country--reflects our long-standing Naval and Marine Corps sea-service heritage.
General William Thornson said, “there are only two kinds of people who understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second-hand opinion.” (laughter)
Well, I’ve managed to form my own second-hand opinion after a long association with the Marine Corps…from flying alongside Marine Corps fighter pilots at TOP GUN…to commanding a deployed amphibious warship with embarked Marines…to providing close air support to Marines on the ground in Iraq…to working alongside Marines in joint billets…to having a wonderful FAST company working for me at United States SIXTH Fleet…to some of my more fond but fuzzy memories enjoying drinks with Marines across the globe…to now having outstanding Marines working for me in my headquarters in Colorado.
Of course, Marines never really work for anyone besides the Commandant, and while we were able to bid a fond farewell to General Jim Conway last week, we are lucky to have a fantastic new Commandant of the Marine Corps in Jim Amos.
There is a generation of Marines, by the way, who are all now changing their first names to “Jim,” because everyone looks up to--and eventually wants to be--the Commandant.
I’m watching very closely, since I have a 12-year-old son named Jon who wants to be a Marine sniper platoon leader. Knowing this, I have quickly learned the concepts of cover and concealment in the back yard, and defilade positions at the dinner table. (laughter)
I’m watching for him to change his name to “Jim.” (laughter)
Throughout my long experience with the Corps, I’ve developed tremendous respect and admiration for who Marines are and how they operate. Expeditionary…fast…tough… disciplined…innovative…fierce…honorable…courageous…committed…and uncompromising.
You always have a back-up plan…because you know the first one probably won’t work--though your back-up plan is likely to be: make it up as we go…find, fix and destroy the enemy…come home victorious…and drink a beer. (laughter)
Indeed, it’s with great reverence that I think about the Marines and their illustrious history: Tripoli…the Boxer rebellion…Belleau Wood…Tarawa…Chosin…Hue…Al Anbar Province…and now Afghanistan.
These are just a few of the names that have invoked pride, accomplishment and victory since the birth of Marine Corps.
While Marines have become famous for amphibious operations and winning battles abroad, the truth is, Marines have adapted to every unique set of circumstances into which they’ve been called to serve.
The realities, though, of the post-9/11 world, along with the challenges of globalization, mean that the security environment in which we work has changed--and will keep changing.
While Marines still enjoy success across the globe, a new enemy threatens to stretch our security posture right back to our own borders, where we all live.
Defending our homeland is not a new concept. Our celebration tonight is held in the city of the last major battle of the War of 1812, where interstate militia, Army, Navy, and--yes--the Marines, stood together to defend our very own coast from the British.
Much like the Battle of New Orleans, Marines may be called upon again to fight enemies threatening our freedoms close to home.
And if that day ever comes, I want a Marine on my side…and the fact is, I already have some thanks to the support of General Kelly and the Marines of MARFORNORTH and MARFORRES, serving key missions in our homeland. It would be hard to find a mission in the NORTHCOM AOR that five overworked and underpaid Marines couldn’t take care of themselves.
The Marine Corps’ reputation to do more with less…to be the first to fight…to endure the hardships of conflict in austere environments…and to change the outcome of conflicts through sheer determination and skill…has always made the Marine Corps the first choice--even for many non-combat missions close to home.
But what comes next for a Marine Corps at a crossroads?
Recently, Secretary Gates said Marines, “need to preserve both their maritime soul and the hard-won counterinsurgency skills they’ve developed during this past decade.”
The Eagle, Globe and Anchor remind us of what every Marine understands: the ability to conduct timely global operations from air, sea, and land will ensure America’s enduring international presence.
The Marines’ recent and very successful engagement with Somali pirates only underscores this fact.
And Marines do more than just fight; they’ve consistently shown their ability to help those in need in the far reaches of the globe…such as humanitarian assistance rendered to Indonesians following the 2004 tsunami…and in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti this year…and as we speak, in Pakistan.
And I should add that--right here at home--through the Toys for Tots program, there is evidence of the soft spot that every Marine has in his or her heart for the poor and the weak.
The ability to conduct successful over-the-horizon and amphibious operations in the future will hinge on the right force using the right equipment.
This includes the blue-water Navy. Some say the Navy only does three things: go to sea, drink coffee, and deploy Marines. (laughter)
But we also prepare Marines for combat--such as serving the same Chili Mac for three months straight. (laughter)
…shortening green hours in the gym…and running out of dip in the ship’s store. (laughter)
This is our way of ensuring that every Marine debarks ticked-off and looking for a fight! (laughter, applause, cheering)
As John mentioned, while we celebrate tonight, many of our Marine brothers and sisters in arms are deployed overseas--slowly but surely winning the longest war in American history.
We honor LtCol Tom Ringo, and his Marines of VMR, 4th MAW, who are entering the fight. (cheering, applause)
Their hardships and successes will forge the lessons-learned for the next generation of Marines, and will reinforce the enduring ethos of the Marine Corps.
We honor the ones we have lost, as well as their families, and those who are not able to be present with us tonight.
Each of you has helped the Corps become what it is today: still the finest fighting force the world has ever known.
Marines are professional, and polite--but they will squash you if needed.
Marine are ethical and moral--but most are liberty risks. (laughter, hooting)
Marines are all riflemen, precise tacticians--but care passionately about family and friends.
You are innovative and cunning--but you embody the spirit of our great nation.
Marines are courteous, and helpful--but ferocious warriors.
Marines are respected, renowned and feared. You uphold the values of honor, courage and commitment--and represent your country well.
And no matter what the future holds, I know you Marines will be ready to fight…the first to fight…and will always come home victorious.
I am glad you Marines fight on my side, and I’m proud to serve with you.
Field Marshall Montgomery once said, “A Marine should be sworn to the patient endurance of hardships--and it is not the least of these necessary hardships to have to serve with Sailors.” (laughter)
Well, this Sailor is damned proud to have served with--and to continue to serve with--Marines.
Sixty-five years ago, after a landing on a small South Pacific island known as Iwo Jima, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal said, “The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.”
We can all work, and hope, and pray to make sure that is true.
Thank you again for inviting me to speak to you tonight.
Congratulations on 235 years of service and success.
Semper Fidelis…and happy birthday Marines! (applause, cheering)