Military News

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Face of Defense: Marine Amputee Who Returned to Iraq Earns Fellowship

By Marine Corps Cpl. Sean P. McGinty
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 31, 2008 - A noncommissioned officer who returned to Iraq nine months ago after his left leg was amputated above the knee soon will represent the
Marine Corps in the halls of Congress. Master Sgt. William "Spanky" Gibson, whose courage President Bush recognized during March 19 remarks on the fifth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is one of three Marines selected for the first staff NCO congressional fellowships under new Marine Corps parameters for its part in the Defense Department congressional fellowships program.

Bush, who described Gibson's successful effort to rejoin the fight in Iraq, said that with Americans like Gibson serving, the enemy doesn't have a chance.

"I want to assist the
Marine Corps globally," said Gibson, 37. "I want to show what staff NCOs can do in a position that staff NCOs have never been challenged in."

The
Marine Corps congressional fellowship is a year-long program opened to staff NCOs for the first time this year. Gibson lost his leg in May 2006 after being shot in the knee by a sniper while serving in Ramadi, Iraq, as a joint terminal attack controller for 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. After extensive rehabilitation at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., Gibson set out to prove he was fit for duty. He trained for and participated in endurance races and triathlons.

In June 2007, he competed in the "Escape from Alcatraz" triathlon in San Francisco, where he met and asked
Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who then commanded Marine forces serving in the U.S. Central Command area of operations, to let him return to Iraq.

Less than two years after adjusting to his prosthetic leg and fighting to stay in the Marine Corps, Gibson returned to Iraq with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force as the force fires chief for Multinational Force West here.

Gibson said that while recuperating in Bethesda, he told himself he would never return to the Washington, D.C., area. He was fully focused on returning to Iraq, he said.

"I never contemplated something like this," he said. "Nine months ago, my thoughts were directed in getting back to the battlefield. Now, I'm going to have to learn more about the legislative process, and I'll have interaction between generals and congressmen."

As a congressional fellow, Gibson will trade his uniform for a business suit while working with either the House of Representatives or the Senate. He will work for a member of Congress, doing anything any staffer might do, except for campaign work, said Maj. Ernest E. Robinson of the
Marine Corps' legislative affairs office.

"He will be working in one of the Congress members' office, working directly for the member," Robinson said. "Depending on his tasks, he could be involved in legislation or some pretty important business."

Marine guidelines for the fellowship say Gibson's new duties could include drafting legislation, serving as a liaison to constituents, planning international conferences and dialogues, and much more.

"I'm looking forward to understanding the legislative process and what it has to do with the Marine Corps," the Pryor, Okla., native said. "Now us staff NCOs can be a part of that process and have a say in it."

As with nearly all
military congressional fellows, Gibson most likely will serve with a Congress member who serves on the House or Senate Armed Services Committee or the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Defense, according to Col. Raymond E. Celeste of Marine Corps legislative affairs.

Gibson will provide accurate information to members of Congress, said Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Neil O'Connell, the senior enlisted Marine in Multinational Force West. "He's tactically and technically proficient, constantly educating himself, and due to his situation, he's well versed in the treatment and rehabilitation of the wounded," O'Connell said.

Selection for the program seems like a natural step for his career in the Marines, Gibson said. The majority of his experience in the
Marine Corps has been focused on ground combat, but he said he's ready for a change.

"I think it's the perfect time to go," Gibson said. "This deployment has shown me where my place in the future is. This is going to be an environment I'm not used to, but it'll be an environment where I can help the whole
military."

Though Gibson's tour in Washington will be something he has never done before, O'Connell said, his selection to the fellowship shows the Defense Department has faith that Gibson's extensive experience and professionalism will represent the
Marine Corps in a positive light.

"He's a driven Marine, and he's earned his selection," he said.

(
Marine Corps Cpl. Sean P. McGinty serves in the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs Office.)

Petraeus Assumes Leadership of U.S. Central Command

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 31, 2008 -
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus assumed leadership of the U.S. military command charged with helping to build peace in a tough and war-torn part of the world today. Petraeus took the reins of U.S. Central Command from acting commander Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey in a ceremony here.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates presided over the change of command held at the base's Memorial Park.

"General Petraeus, you are again taking responsibility for our precious sons and daughters," Gates said. "I have no doubt they will continue to make you and me – indeed all Americans – very proud."

Petraeus now has responsibility for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He must deal with the threat that Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons poses to the region and world. He also must deal with an unstable government in Pakistan. U.S. Central Command reaches from Kazakhstan to Yemen and Egypt to Kyrgyzstan.

Petraeus commanded Multinational Force Iraq during the troop surge that turned the tide in Iraq's security. Violence dropped in Iraq, and most of the country has returned to Iraqi control.

Before the change of command ceremony, Gates presented Dempsey with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and Marine Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Morin, U.S. Central Command's senior enlisted leader, with the Defense Superior Service Medal.

The Senate has confirmed Dempsey for his fourth star and the post of commander U.S.
Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va. Dempsey – who was deputy commander of CentCom – took over as acting commander upon the retirement of Navy Adm. William J. Fallon in March. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John R. Allen succeeded Dempsey today in CentCom's No. 2 post.

"I recall my first meeting with Marty Dempsey after he took the reins of CentCom," Gates said in his remarks. "He gave me a sheet of paper outlining the priorities for this command and asked for my guidance. After hearing what Marty had to say, I simply held up his own sheet of paper and said, 'This is my guidance to you' – a testament to his strategic vision and pragmatism, which he possesses in extra measure."

Dempsey has been far more than a place-holder at U.S. Central Command, Gates said, and
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agreed.

"Here at CentCom, Marty truly made the words 'acting commander' a contradiction in terms," Mullen said during the ceremony. "For there was nothing 'acting' about the way Marty has exercised the full spectrum of command throughout his entire area of responsibility. Nothing 'acting' about the way he orchestrated two wars at a critical time in our nation's history."

There also was nothing "acting" about his coordination with fellow combatant commanders and his management of the transition of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa to U.S. Africa Command last month, Mullen said.

"Through it all, Marty has always placed the warfighter at the forefront – a priority that he made clear on Day One – and he has responded at every turn with a quiet confidence that earned my admiration and that of countless others under his command and throughout the region," the secretary said.

Gates next addressed the challenges awaiting Petraeus. "At the MNF-I change of command a few weeks ago, I said that history will regard him as one of our nation's great battle captains," Gates said. "He is the preeminent soldier-scholar-statesman of his generation, and precisely the man we need in this command at this time."

The troops under his command, "dealt our enemies in Iraq a tremendous blow," Gates said. "Now he will take aim at our adversaries in Afghanistan and lead security capacity efforts throughout the Middle East, the Gulf and Central Asia."

Mullen said that America has great expectations as Petraeus takes command here. "His watchwords – learn and adapt – have echoed from the streets of Baghdad to the halls of Washington," the chairman said.

He said Petraeus and Dempsey have "fired the minds of generations to understand the true purpose of power as a force for good: To listen in order to understand; to treat all cultures as equals, with dignity and respect; to admit quickly when we are wrong; and to share risk with those we protect – all in order to build trust."

Building trust among all peoples of the Middle East is the priority of the command, Mullen said. "The progress of peace, and the speed of that progress, depends upon the quality of trust Dave and this command will be able to achieve throughout the broader Middle East, and how he will build upon the lessons Marty has brought forward to this very moment," the chairman said.

While the challenges of the region may not require the same strategies Petraeus used in Iraq, he can build on that experience as he moves forward, Mullen said. "Dave, it is now your turn, with a new, broader aperture," the chairman said. "And we have great expectations ahead."

Both Petraeus and Dempsey are graduates of the U.S.
military Academy's class of 1974.

Representatives of many of the partner nations attended the ceremony and Gates had a special welcome for them. The secretary thanked them for their support in Central Command.

"The United States has had enduring interests in this part of the world for many decades under presidents of both political parties," he said. "We will continue to have a presence there, standing strong with our friends and allies."

Gates also praised the efforts of American troops serving in U.S. Central Command. "CentCom went on a war footing when our country was attacked and has not let up since," he said. "For seven years, those who serve in this command have bravely stepped forward and, when necessary, unsheathed the sword on our enemies.

"I've heard it said that 'communism didn't fall, it was pushed.' Likewise, violent extremism will neither crumble nor fade away of its own accord," the secretary continued. "It will be the valor, grit and fighting spirit of you – the men and women of U.S. Central Command – that will give heart to our friends while pursuing terrorists where they hide, wrecking their malevolent designs and keeping them far from our shores."

The men and women of U.S. Central Command have sacrificed for all Americans, and "we cannot thank you enough," Mullen said. "It doesn't take ceremonies like this to celebrate the confidence of a grateful nation in our men and women in uniform, here in Tampa, and throughout the world, who choose lives of great sacrifice, and along with their families, bear heroic burdens, and honor us all."

2008 Phoenix Award Winner Announced

The Department of Defense today announced the 2008 winner of the Phoenix Award, part of 2008 Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards. The field-level maintenance award honors military maintenance organizations for outstanding performance. The awardee is chosen from active and reserve organizations performing unit-or field-level maintenance and singled out as the best of the best and receives the Phoenix Award.

The 2008 winner of the Phoenix Award for field-level maintenance is the
Air Force's 1st Special Operations Maintenance Group, Hurlburt Field, Fla., which distinguished itself by accomplishing superior aircraft maintenance supporting the generation of 3,200 combat sorties that flew nearly 14,000 hours over hostile territory. Challenged with a $336 million modification program and the bed down of two new weapon systems at home, the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Group was able to generate 4,200 training sorties that produced more than 3,100 combat ready aircrews needed to fight the Global War on Terrorism. Despite an imposing operations tempo, maintenance personnel throughout the group still supported 65 off-and on-station training and exercise commitments highlighted by a revamped training program that saved 98,000 labor hours per year and accomplished more than 33,000 training events.

The award was presented Oct. 29, 2008, at the 2008 DoD Maintenance Symposium and Exhibition in Denver, Colo. Additional information regarding the 2008 DoD Maintenance awards can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=12109 .

Acquisition Directorate Saves Billions for Taxpayers, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 31, 2008 - The Defense Department's acquisition directorate saved billions of dollars for taxpayers after adjusting the purchase schedule of several procurement programs, a senior Defense Department official said here yesterday. John J. Young Jr., the undersecretary of defense for acquisition,
technology and logistics, told reporters that he'd set a goal to save the department $10-$15 billion in procurement costs. Young was appointed to his post in November 2007.

"That's a pretty high goal ... but, I can tell you we think we've saved about $5 billion" so far, said Young.

One method found to reduce costs in the acquisition realm involves how the Pentagon purchases its equipment, Young said.

"We looked at a lot of our larger (procurement) programs and found many candidates, where if the enterprise was willing to take the pain of buying a few more sooner, and in some cases buying out faster, or... buying at a more economic order quantity – we can save money," Young said.

Nearly a dozen Pentagon procurement programs in the fiscal 2009 defense budget will be adjusted in that way to save costs, Young said.

The department also is looking at ways to realize another $30 billion in potential procurement cost savings, Young said.

The Pentagon's use of joint-analysis teams that examine the merit and capabilities of items such as advanced radar systems and other future equipment, Young said, greatly assists the department in its quest to procure the best
military equipment and systems at the best price.

Young said he is thankful for the expertise of in-house
military and defense civilian procurement experts who serve on the joint-analysis teams. He also saluted outside procurement experts who serve on defense support teams that brainstorm with Defense Department officials to solve procurement issues.

Using in-house and external experts to evaluate proposed procurement programs, Young said, is an example of "another best-practice that helps the enterprise to get the job done with discipline and efficiency."

Young also praised the utility of competitions sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that invite private industry to demonstrate expertise in fields such as lightweight, wearable power systems for soldiers and robotic vehicles.

Thanks to such competitions, the battery weight for prototype soldier-carried power systems, such as battery packs for computers, has been greatly reduced, Young said.

"So, that's great news in and of itself," Young said. "We have essentially prototype systems that weigh a third of what we ask soldiers to carry now and offer all the logistical benefits that come with that – less weight, less logistical demand to resupply batteries, et cetera. And, hopefully, we'll move that
technology forward."

Young said he has sought to manage the Pentagon's acquisition process based on principles of realistic requirements, mature
technology and fiscal discipline.

Future leadership decisions will need to be made on major defense acquisition programs that include new
Navy surface vessels, the Joint Strike Fighter, the Air Force's F-22 fighter, the Army's Future Combat System and others, Young said.

"I think every one of the big programs will get some level of attention," Young said, since "the next administration will want to look at how their priorities in the budget line up."

Returning to the issue of procurement costs, Young noted that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has expressed concern about processes that drive up the cost of new acquisition programs and expend additional taxpayer dollars.

Adding requirements beyond a system's initial design and performance specifications drives up procurement costs, Young said. It's therefore incumbent upon procurement officials, he said, to decide on the minimum necessary requirements for new defense systems and to carefully weigh the need and cost of adding other desired functions.

"I think bells and whistles are costing us money. Bells and whistles drive more testing," Young said. "There can be a set of 'tradable requirements, but we need to be careful about how we're going to evaluate them."

'Operation Education' Provides Net for Veterans

By Joni Kirk
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 31, 2008 - One decision turned Chase Clark's life upside-down, but another is helping him realize the dreams he didn't think were possible. While still in high school in rural Blackfoot, Idaho, Clark signed up for the
Army National Guard because of the great benefits and the "opportunity to make something" of himself.

Immediately following graduation, he took advantage of the educational benefits and enrolled at Idaho State University. "I never expected to get activated, but I knew it was a possibility," he said.

That's exactly what happened his first semester, however. Clark found himself serving in Iraq, where he was wounded in combat. He won't discuss his injuries, though, because of the emotional trauma he still suffers.

Upon his return home, Clark was discharged from the
Army National Guard, but found the battle was only beginning. "Veteran wounds can suck you down and hold you within yourself. I was in a deep, dark place," he said.

Eventually, Clark realized he needed to escape the demons that haunted him. Intent on obtaining a degree in landscape architecture, he took another gamble and headed to the University of
Idaho. This time he won the jackpot.

Soon after his arrival, Clark learned about a scholarship created specifically for disabled veterans: the university's "Operation Education" scholarship program.

Operation Education has three components customized to meet the personal needs of each scholar. Each plan provides financial, academic and social support for the diverse challenges that go with a return to civilian life, adjusting to life with a disability and working to earn a college degree. The program also is available to veterans' spouses.

According to John Sawyer, a veterans' advisor at the University of
Idaho, a college degree can lead to a new life and career opportunities.

"For many disabled veterans, returning to a productive and satisfying life is about more than just money," Sawyer said. "Rather, it is about the need for comprehensive and integrated support. We will do whatever it takes for these veterans to succeed in the classroom, on campus, in the community and, ultimately, in society by helping them complete a college degree."

"I know a lot of wounded vets who have had a tough time getting their benefits and aren't getting paid, which is stressful on their families," Clark said. "This scholarship is not like that at all. The people with Operation Education get things done. They make things happen. More than that, they take care of anything needed for my education."

For Clark, the package has included physical therapy, assistance with vocational rehabilitation, social support, financial assistance for extra expenses, and more.

Because he doesn't have to worry about the "behind the scenes" efforts, Clark said, he is able to focus on his course work. With help from Operation Education, he was able to take a six-week landscape architecture course in Italy. He also plans to study abroad in New Zealand in the spring.

"Studying internationally allows me to glean from the foundations and traditions of landscape architecture," he said. "There are great examples of city form, land planning and landscape design that can serve as inspiration for contemporary design and planning."

Clark's also developing his skills closer to home. This year, students in the university's landscape architecture program are working in Cascade,
Idaho, to develop and realize a community vision.

"It's a project where we impact real people directly," Clark said. "It made me realize what I can become. I'm developing both as an individual and as part of a team. It's very inspiring and presents me with new challenges and ideals."

He credits the university and its scholarship program as being a "grounding rod" for disabled veterans.

"Operation Education is more than a scholarship – it's a support web," Clark said. "It allows me to be flexible in exploring the different avenues and opportunities of my education. I can focus on learning without being hindered by all the details.

"I encourage other vets who may think that they can't go to school to reconsider."

(Joni Kirk works at the University of
Idaho.)

MILITARY CONTRACTS October 31, 2008

MISSILE DEFENSE AGENCY

Raytheon Missile Systems Co.,
Arizona, is being awarded a $441,900,000 (maximum) indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for development and test of the Ballistic Missile Defense System Multiple Kill Vehicle Payload System. Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona and is expected to be complete by December 2011. This is a sole source contract award. The contract funds will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. The Missile Defense Agency, Huntsville, Ala., is the contracting activity (HQ0147-09-D-0001). The contract will be incrementally funded. The Task Order 0001 negotiated value is $54,013,313 with a period of performance of 1 Nov. 2008 through 1 Nov. 2009. We anticipate funding approximately $24,000,000 at time of award. Both FY09 and FY10 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be used.

NAVY

BAE Systems
Technology Solutions and Services, Rockville, Md., is being awarded a $55,000,000 modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract (N00421-06-D-0038) to exercise an option for engineering, analytical and manufacturing to support aging aircraft. Work will be performed in various locations throughout the United States (80 percent) and Rockville, Md. (20 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Maritime Systems & Sensors, Baltimore, Md., is being awarded a $37,500,000 Basic Ordering Agreement for Post-Shakedown Availability (PSA) on the Littoral Combat Ship, USS Freedom (LCS-1). The orders to be issued will encompass services which support the total PSA effort which include, but are not limited to program management, advance planning, engineering, material kitting, liaison, scheduling and participation in PSA planning conferences and design reviews, and preparation of documentation as required by the Contract Data Requirement List. The orders will also encompass material and labor to perform the PSA for LCS 1, all testing, including post repair trials required to verify the accuracy and completion of all shipyard industrial work, non-standard equipment when approved, and technical manuals for non-standard equipment. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif. (53 percent) and Norfolk, Va. (47 percent), and is expected to be completed by January 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-09-G-2300).

Walton Construction Co., LLC, Harahan, La., is being awarded a $34,020,000 modification under a previously awarded firm-fixed price contract (N69450-08-C-1759) to exercise an option which provides for the design and construction of two barracks at the
Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. The total contract amount after exercise of this option will be $59,280,000. Work will be performed at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., and is expected to be completed by Nov. 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity.

LTM, Inc.*, Havelock, N.C., is being awarded a $25,345,721 ceiling priced modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00421-01-D-0101) to exercise an option for approximately 353,600 hours of maintenance planning and design interface technical/management support services for the Fleet Readiness Center(FRC) East, Cherry Point, N.C. These services include evaluating initial designs and proposed design changes, maintenance planning, and sustaining maintenance plans. Work will be performed at FRC East, Cherry Point, N.C. (99 percent), and at various locations across the United States (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in October 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Lejeune Support Services, LLC, Sterling, Va., is being awarded $14,047,049 under a previously awarded firm-fixed-price, indefinite-deliver/indefinite-quantity contract (N62470-05-D-4192) to exercise option year four for facilities maintenance and repair and heavy equipment repair at
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, Jacksonville, N.C. The work to be performed includes all labor, materials, tools, equipment, supervision, technical expertise, transportation and management necessary to operate, maintain, and repair the facilities, roads, grounds, equipment, and utilities and perform other specialized functions, such as locksmith services, machinery, sign fabrication, etc. After exercise of this option, the total cumulative contract amount will be $75,704,122. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, N.C., and work is expected to be completed Oct. 31, 2009. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The solicitation was available for full and open competition, and three proposals were received. Award was made to Lejeune Support Services, LLC on Jan. 26, 2005. The Officer in Charge of Construction, Marine Corps Installations East, is the administering contracting activity.

McDonnell Douglas Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a $5,841,577 order against a previously issued Basic Ordering Agreement (N00019-05-G-0026) for near and long term requirements to continue the analysis required for an efficient and orderly shutdown of the T-45 production line transition Phase II and the associated post-production support efforts for the T-45 A/C aircraft series. Work will be performed in St. Louis, Mo. (77 percent) and Warton, Lancashire, UK (23 percent), and is expected to be completed in March 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $1,653,085 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. is the contracting activity.

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Turbo Combustor
Technology, Inc., Stuart, Fla.* is being awarded a maximum $10,640,000 firm fixed price, total set-aside contract for aircraft engine platform equipment. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Air Force. There were originally three proposals solicited with two responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is November 30, 2009. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Richmond, Richmond, Va., (SPM4A7-09-C-0003).

ARMY

AeroVironment Incorporated, Sun Valley, Calif., was awarded Oct. 30, 2008, a $5,810,622 firm/fixed/price contract. This effort is to procure research, development, test & evaluation digital data link effort for the Raven RQ-11B unmanned aircraft System. Work will be performed in Simi Valley, Calif., with an estimated completion date of Jan. 31, 2011. One bid was solicited and one bid was received. US
Army Contracting Command Aviation & Missile Command/AMSCC/AMC/ARA, is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-05-C-0338).

Dempsey's 'Acting' Career Ends as CentCom Turns Over to Petraeus

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Oct. 31, 2008 -
Army Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey's "acting" career is over. Dempsey turned over command of U.S. Central Command to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus during a sun-drenched ceremony at Memorial Field here today. As CentCom's deputy commander, Dempsey took over as acting commander following the retirement of Navy Adm. William J. Fallon in March. He will receive his fourth star and assume command of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., and was succeeded today as CentCom's deputy commander by Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John R. Allen.

Dempsey paid tribute to the more than 250,000 American servicemembers and civilians serving in the command, which stretches from Kazakhstan to Egypt and includes two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said they are "far from home, often in harm's way, uncomplaining; representing both the resolve and compassion of this great nation."

"As a nation," he said, "we have been blessed by their service, and I have been blessed to be part of their team."

The area the command covers presents the United States with challenges that sometimes seem unsolvable, he said. "Yet it offers us opportunities to solve many, and perhaps even most, of the world's perplexing problems," he said.

While the vast majority of people in the region have aspirations much like those of Americans, violent extremists in the region have declared war on the American way of life, Dempsey said.

"And so, CentCom is a command at war," he said. "It is also a command committed to promoting peace. We relentlessly pursue our enemies while simultaneously conducting disaster relief, training with our coalition and regional partners and protecting the global commons at sea and in the air.

"There is always an honest day's work to be done at U.S. Central Command," he said.

The command's trademarks are teamwork, partnership, sacrifice and resolve, Dempsey said. "CentCom is a team of teams," he said. The command teams with other nations, other agencies and – at home – with Tampa, he noted.

"Most of what gets done well in our government gets done through the trust and confidence that comes with partnership," Dempsey said. "As partners, we demonstrate every day that in matters of security, the whole really is stronger than the sum of its parts."

The men and women of CentCom "understand that there are things in this world – like freedom – worth the sacrifice necessary to achieve and then preserve them," the general said.

Dempsey described visiting Afghanistan's border with Pakistan in December and speaking with the U.S. leader about his 20-man detachment's fight against 50 or 60 Taliban the night before.

"There were several inches of snow on the ground," he said. "The troopers were living in sandbagged metal containers at 8,000 feet and most of their supplies had to be brought in by helicopter because the road network had been mined by the Taliban – a tough and important mission being performed superbly by a tough group of soldiers."

Those soldiers and their fellow servicemembers around the region are brave and proud, and they accept the sacrifices America's asks of them, Dempsey said.

"I'll tell you one other thing: Nobody is getting through that pass ... or through any other outpost where young Americans stand watch for our freedom," he said.

Petraeus thanked Dempsey for his service as acting commander and said he is ready for the challenges presented by the region.

"Indeed, from transnational extremist organizations and industrial strength insurgencies, to weapons proliferation, a rise in piracy and persistent ethno-sectarian conflict, the CentCom area contains innumerable challenges," Petraeus said.

And the solutions to these challenges require comprehensive approaches that employ the whole of the U.S. government's capabilities, he said, and close coordination with host country and coalition governments and security forces.

"This is necessary not just to resolve pressing short-term issues but to address – over time – the underlying conditions that give rise to such serious security challenges," he said.

The road ahead will be tough, but the mission must be accomplished, Petraeus said.

"It's clear that in the months and years ahead, a great deal of responsibility will continue to rest on the shoulders of the wonderful men and women of the coalition countries serving in harm's way in the Central Command area of responsibility, and it is an honor to serve with them again," he said.