By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. – The Defense Department bid farewell to one of its service chiefs today as Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz was honored for 39 years of service during a retirement ceremony here which also welcomed his successor.
“It is a real honor and a pleasure to be able to have this chance today to pay tribute to General Norty Schwartz [and] four decades of exceptional service to this country,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said at the ceremony.
“Norty is, I believe, one of the finest officers I've had the honor to work with,” Panetta said. “He came at a very critical time in the history of the Air Force, and he responded with incredible leadership in making the Air Force an essential, credible and capable partner in our national defense.”
Schwartz relinquished his position as Air Force chief of staff and will officially retire Oct. 1.
Panetta also welcomed Schwartz’s successor, Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III as the 20th Air Force Chief of Staff. “I'm also thrilled to have the opportunity to welcome Mark Welsh back to Washington and back to work here,” he said. “I was honored to work with Mark when he served as my principal military adviser at the CIA. And I look forward to continuing that partnership as he begins his new job.” Panetta said America depends on people like Schwartz and Welsh who “choose selflessly to serve this great country of ours.”
The defense secretary described Schwartz as a hardworking Toms River, N.J., native, who grew up in a blue collar world. “As a young man, he understood the importance of hard work and dedication to his country, values that led to his decision to serve this nation in uniform,” Panetta said of Schwartz. “These values have guided him through a distinguished career in both the conventional and special operations communities.”
Panetta highlighted significant moments in Schwartz’s 39-year career, such as his service in a 1975 airlift evacuation during the fall of Saigon [now Ho Chi Minh City], as well as his participation in a joint special operations task force during the Gulf War.
More recently, Panetta said, Schwartz had the “huge task” of leading U.S. Transportation Command as the U.S. military fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As the 19th Air Force chief of staff, Norty has led the Air Force with tremendous judgment, vision and honesty,” the secretary said. “Even though he was planning to retire after his time at Transcom, when he was called upon to help the institution he loves, he accepted the mission. And he always has.”
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey spoke of the absolute pleasure of having Schwartz serve as a member of the Joint Chiefs. “Norty Schwartz has forged an enduring legacy as an airman, a mentor and a leader,” the chairman said. “But I believe that the most important of his achievements is that he inspired trust within the Air Force, among his fellow service chiefs, within and across our government, and with our allies and partners.”
Dempsey also praised Schwartz’s wife, Suzie, for her service as an “equally inspiring, all-in ‘wingman’” who made a difference in the lives of military families. And, he lauded the quality of the service members under Schwartz’s leadership as Air Force chief of staff.
These men and women, Dempsey said, are in the kind of Air Force that Schwartz and his wife nurtured, encouraged and loved. “On behalf of the Joint Chiefs, I want you to know that it's been a tremendous privilege to serve with you both,” Dempsey said. “We all deeply appreciate how welcoming you've been to us and how deeply we value your wise counsel.”
The chairman also greeted Welsh and his wife, Betty. “I don't know anyone more ready to take the stick from Norty and Suzie; [there’s] nobody better ready than Mark and Betty,” he added. “Our nation has placed its trust in you both, and so have we.”