By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Aug. 1, 2015 – Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. made his mark as the Joint Chiefs’ vice chairman by “challenging institutional assumptions strategically, technically and conceptually,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at the admiral’s retirement ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, yesterday.
At the post’s Whipple Field, Carter told the audience comprised of DoD senior leadership and distinguished guests how Winnefeld, the ninth vice chairman, helped DoD build trust around the interagency.
“He’s been the grease in the machinery between our special operations forces and our most senior decision makers, helping remove some of the worse terrorists from the fight,” the secretary said, adding that Winnefeld helped improve DoD’s cyber security, nuclear deterrent and space capabilities.
Wrapping up 37 years in his military career, there is no question Winnefeld is “a master of the tactical, operational and strategic dimensions of warfare,” but “even bigger than Sandy’s mind is his heart,” Carter said.
Caring for the Wounded
When Winnefeld and his wife, Mary, realized hospitalized troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center didn’t have Wi-Fi connections, they made sure it was installed. Patients could then connect with fellow wounded warriors, battle buddies and families, the secretary noted.
The vice chairman toured worldwide with the USO to help lift troops’ spirits, and “quietly [and] humbly” mentored enlisted, officer and civilian men and women on his staff, Carter added.
“That’s the legacy of excellence you leave us with,” the secretary told Winnefeld. “You’ve helped this department and its people succeed. We can’t thank you enough for that.”
Mary Winnefeld: Giving Back
The secretary and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey touted the extensive voluntary assistance Mary Winnefeld provided military members, such as wounded warriors, and family members.
“She’s at Walter Reed so much, they call her Aunt Mary there,” Carter said.
Dempsey called Mary Winnefeld an amazing champion, who “has always gone the extra mile –- even going undercover at Walter Reed to get an unvarnished look at exactly how service members and families are treated.”
‘The World is A Safer Place’
Dempsey said Winnefeld’s accomplishments were too many to list but noted that he is “one of the Navy’s most-proficient and experienced pilots.”
Having commanded at every level afloat and ashore in the Navy, joint, allied and combatant commands, Winnefeld is an inspirational leader who took the nation’s men and women into battle and hostile territories to fight those who sought to do harm to the United States, the chairman said.
“We are safer today because of Sandy’s service,” Dempsey said.
“The world remains a dangerous place,” the chairman said.
“Sandy and I have faced the most complicated, complex and disparate challenges imaginable advising the president and leading the nation’s military. From terrorists, to the Ebola virus, to cyber attacks, Sandy’s intellect, work ethic and patriotism have been invaluable in ensuring America remains safe and prosperous.”
Dempsey awarded the vice chairman the Defense Distinguished Service Medal while Mary Winnefeld was honored with the DoD Medal for Distinguished Public Service.
‘An Extraordinary Privilege’
No nation on earth has ever been blessed with as many allies as the United States has had, Winnefeld told audience members.
“It’s been such an extraordinary privilege to serve our great nation in uniform … the best part has been the extraordinary people I’ve come to know on this journey,” he said.
“I’ve served with the most dedicated civilians, sailed with the best sailors, flown alongside the most gifted airmen and supported the most lethal yet compassionate soldiers, Marines and special operators on this planet. It’s been a heck of a ride,” he added.
Winnefeld thanked audience members and the American people for giving him “the high privilege for a few years of helping protect this beautiful land we love so much.”