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Soldiers are the face of our nation, Fanning says at welcome ceremony

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (June 21, 2016) -- Lawmakers, leaders from across the Department of Defense, and personal guests welcomed Eric Fanning to his new role as the 22nd secretary of the Army, during a full-honor arrival ceremony, June 20, at Summerall Field on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

"Secretary Fanning served as my chief of staff when I first became secretary of Defense," said Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter. "I looked to him to help me recruit and attract a talented and innovative team of civilian and military leaders, many of whom are with us today."

A man in a military uniform and another man in a suit walk side-by-side down a row of soldiers, who are standing at attention.
Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning inspects the Soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) during a full honor arrival ceremony in his honor, June 20, 2016 on Summerall Field at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia.

Carter said Fanning brings with him a breadth of experience at the helm of other military departments, including time as undersecretary of the Air Force, acting secretary of the Air Force, and also as deputy undersecretary of the Navy.

"That gives him a unique perspective on the pivotal connections that bind our joint force," Carter said.

At a time where the U.S. is concerned about ISIL, Russian aggression, a rising and aggressive China, North Korea, and Iran, Carter said he's confident that Fanning and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley are right to lead the Army.

"Secretary Fanning and Gen. Milley understand all this, understand what must be done to ensure the readiness and strength of the Army to confront the challenges of today's security environment," Carter said. "They're working together to strengthen the Army's unparalleled ability, forged over the last 15 years, and much longer, to carry out its core mission, which is to seize, to hold, and to dominate physical and human terrain."

He said that in line with the Army's No. 1 priority of readiness, both Fanning and Milley will work to strengthen the Army's ability to fight in an array of conflicts -- not just what it has been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"They aren't resting on the current excellence of our Army," Carter said. "They're doubling down on it, ensuring that our ground forces are agile, unrivaled in posture, ready for full-spectrum operations, and always prepared to defend America's interests and values.

"So it is an honor to formally welcome Secretary Fanning as Secretary of the Army," Carter said. "And I want to thank him for everything he is doing on behalf of all of the Soldiers and military families who serve today, from the mountains of Afghanistan, to the plains of Eastern Europe, to the Korean peninsula, to enabling our partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria."

Fanning was initially nominated by President Obama as secretary of the Army in November 2015. He had been serving at the time as undersecretary of the Army. His confirmation to the position was delayed, however, and he left the secretary of the Army position in January 2016 without having been confirmed. He was later sworn in as secretary in May 2016, after having been confirmed by the Senate.

Despite the long delay in advance of his actually taking the helm, Milley said he's known Fanning for quite some time, from back when the two were both being considered for their current positons, and says he's grown confident with Fanning's ability to lead.

"We are absolutely thrilled to have you finally aboard -- there is much work to be done," Milley said. "It's no surprise to any of you who know him, but Eric Fanning is an incredible professional. He's completely committed to our Army, both the Soldiers and their families, and he is first class in every way imaginable. As an Army, we could not be luckier and more proud of our new secretary ... I can tell you he is extraordinarily talented, he is thoughtful, he is calm, and [he is] a man of immense personal courage and integrity. Eric Fanning is absolutely the right person to serve as our 22nd secretary of the Army."

Together, Milley said, he and Fanning must continue to lead the Army through two conflicts in the Middle East, must continue to assure allies and deter adversaries in Europe, Asia, Africa, Central and South America -- and they must do that with a declining budget and with a drawdown in force structure.

"Secretary Fanning will lead us through tough resourcing decisions and challenging fiscal realities," Milley said, "all the while setting the conditions for a future force that is balanced, modern, and takes advantage of all the talents that all Americans have to offer, regardless of the color of their skin, regardless of their religion, regardless of their national origin, regardless of their gender, regardless of their identity, or their sexual preference. The U.S. Army is open to all Americans who meet the standard, regardless of who they are.

"Mr. Secretary, on behalf of all the Soldiers in the Army today, all those that are retired, and all the civilians of the U.S. Army, and all of our families, we want to welcome you from the bottom of our hearts to the team," Milley said. "And I, for one, am so very proud to call you my secretary."


After the delayed nomination to his position, Fanning said he is glad to finally be aboard to lead more than a million Soldiers and civilians across the total force.

"Too few Americans have an understanding of what their Army is doing," Fanning said. "They know about Iraq and Afghanistan, where many are serving valiantly today, and where too many made the ultimate sacrifice over the past 15 years ... but they don't understand the full impact across our country and around the world."

Fanning said that Soldiers serve as ambassadors around the world, even more so than those who serve professionally in that role.

"There are just over 15,000 foreign service members in our government," Fanning said. "And as the chief said today, there are over 180k Soldiers outside the United States in over 140 countries. They don't just fight for our freedoms, they represent us. Our Soldiers are the face of America."

Last week Fanning visited Poland, where American Soldiers were engaged in Anaconda 2016, a military exercise with partner nations that involved more than 30,000 participants from 24 countries.

"I asked a 19-year-old Soldier what his biggest surprise was, and he said 'support,'" Fanning said. "He meant the support of the Polish people. Crowds of Poles turned out, flags waiving, as their convoy moved across Poland. And when they took a Bradley fighting vehicle to a nearby town for a static display, that young Soldier beamed with pride when he told me about the waves of children clamoring onto the vehicle for pictures."

Fanning said that the young Soldier he had met in Poland was thinking about the impact he and his Soldiers are having now. But what he didn't realize, Fanning said, is that "the impact of his and his Soldiers' presence will last for years to come. And it happens all over the world."

Fanning also expressed pride in leading a service that is typically the first called upon when nobody knows who else to call. He cited the Army Corps of Engineers and their response to natural disasters as an example of that.

"When the problem is so big that they can't think of who else can tackle it, they turn to the U.S. Army," Fanning said. During Hurricane Sandy, he said, the Corps drained 286 million gallons of saltwater in just nine days from the New York City subway system. In the 10 years following Hurricane Katrina, he said, the Corps designed and built a $14.5 billion, 100-year storm protective system for New Orleans. It's "a feat of engineering that included 133 miles of protections, 350 miles of canals, and a gated storm barrier that contains more concrete than the Hoover Dam, and is visible from space."

Fanning also recognized the 400,000 Department of the Army civilians who support Soldiers, saying that those civilians include scientists, inventors, teachers, technicians, maintainers and weapons experts, and are responsible for running schools, test ranges, installations and commissaries.

"Like them, I am committed every day to do what is necessary to support our Soldiers as individuals and as an Army, to do what is asked of them, because much is and much will be," he said.

Fanning said he is committed to an Army that makes resilient Soldiers that are both trained and equipped. He said the Army must also "redouble our efforts to eliminate sexual assault and suicide, we must ensure that everybody has access to behavioral health services, and that we eliminate the stigma attached with seeking health -- [it's] a sign of strength not weakness."

When it comes to readiness, he said, he is committed to ensuring Soldiers are prepared to fight across a wide range of contingencies -- "not just the kind of fighting we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "That means the kind of large-scale, integrated, decisive action training I witnessed in Poland last week. And to make sure they are equipped in a way that always maintains a decisive advantage over any adversary, we must work to get capability to them more rapidly, and as efficiently as possible, and we must find more ways to cut time and money out of acquisition processes to better serve our Soldiers, to be better stewards of taxpayer money, and to streamline the system for the many talented Army civilians who slog through the processes we put in their way."

Finally, the Army's new secretary touched on diversity in the Army as a strength.

"We must continue to open up opportunity for those who meet standards, that were previously denied the opportunity to serve," he said. "By leveraging diversity, and creating an inclusive environment in which all are valued, we engender opportunities to be part of the greatest mission there is: defending our nation's security."

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