Overcoming Parochial Obstacles to Forge a Close Working Relationship
Between the Military and the Intelligence Community
Panetta Urges Continuing
Afghan Mission to Emphasize Resolve
By Jim Garamone, American Forces
Washington D.C. -- August 8, 2011 – (AFPS)
-- The United States must not break faith with those who have paid the
ultimate price, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said during the change of
command for U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., today.
The United States must continue until achieving final victory
over terror, Panetta said as he presided over the transfer of command at Special
Operations Command from Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson to Navy Adm. William H. McRaven.
“The thoughts and prayers of the entire nation are with the
families and loved ones of those we lost in Afghanistan over the weekend,” the
secretary said. Thirty Americans -- including 25 special operations personnel --
were killed Aug. 6 after the Chinook helicopter they were aboard was shot down
“They were far from home, but we know that they were also
where they wanted to be, doing what they wanted to do, alongside men who were
perhaps closer to them than their own brothers,” the secretary said. “We owe
them our deepest gratitude for their willingness to put their lives on the line
and their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.”
America must pledge not to forget their sacrifices, Panetta
“We will honor the fallen by showing the world our unyielding
determination to press ahead, to move forward with the hard work that must be
done to protect our country,” he said. “As heavy a loss as this was, it would
even be more tragic if we allowed it to derail us from our efforts to defeat
al-Qaida and deny them a safe haven in Afghanistan.”
Continuing operations against the Taliban and its al-Qaida
allies will send a strong message of American resolve, the secretary said.
“From this tragedy we draw even greater inspiration to carry
on the fight, to continue to hunt down those who would do us harm,” Panetta said.
“We will never stop. We will fight on until we have achieved the final goal of
victory over terrorism.”
The tragedy is a reminder to the American people that the
country is at war, Panetta said.
In almost 40 years of service, Olson has been an outstanding
special operator and the perfect person to serve as a wartime commander, the
secretary said. Olson is the first Navy SEAL to wear four stars, the secretary
noted, and proved through the years his steadfast leadership.
“One of the most impressive chapters of Eric’s story, at
least from the section that can be spoken about in an unclassified setting,
unfolded during the 1993 ‘Black Hawk Down’ battles in Mogadishu,” Panetta said.
Olson, then a Navy commander, led the ground convoy to rescue his comrades
fighting for their lives against hundreds of enemy fighters who had them
“That mission showed Eric’s extraordinary courage, his
warrior spirit, his inspired leadership and the overwhelming care and concern he
has for his comrades in arms -- all traits that he has demonstrated again and
again throughout his storied career,” Panetta said.
The admiral always put people first, the secretary said. “As
he says, humans are more important than hardware, and quality is more important
than quantity,” he added. “And that's exactly where his focus has been here at
Socom -- finding, caring for and keeping the highest-quality people. As a result
of his hard work, we now have the best trained, the best equipped and the most
experienced special operations force in the history of the United States.”
McRaven comes to the post after serving as commander of Joint
Special Operations Command. Panetta said McRaven will continue to manage Socom’s
growth in the years ahead.
“He’s one of the military’s outstanding strategic thinkers
and leaders, who has always kept faith with those serving downrange,” the
Olson and McRaven and the men and women who serve around the
world are defenders of the American dream and American rights, Panetta said.
“May the torch that is being passed today always burn
brightly for freedom, for that American dream and most of all for the United
States of America,” the secretary said.