WASHINGTON – An excerpt of remarks by outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace while speaking Thursday at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va.:
Question from an audience member: My question is about what many folks at the reception tonight viewed as the very disappointing news about your replacement as chairman. I wonder why you believe that is happening, and what's your thoughts about the process by which we choose the nation's top military uniformed officer?
Marine Gen. Pace: I will tell you the truth as I know it, and that is around the middle of May, within a day or two of the Secretary [of Defense Robert Gates] learning from certain members of Congress that there may be a problem to renominate me, he brought me in the office and sat me down, and said, "Pete, this is what's happening.
"I want to renominate you. I want you to know that this is what I'm beginning to hear, this is what I'm going to go do, this is how I'm going to go do it."
He went out and did exactly what he said on television, and exactly what he's been saying in his interviews, which is he went out and pulsed various members of Congress and he heard back from them the things that he said that he heard.
He and I sat down, and I said, "I'm a Marine. … If you want me to go forward with the confirmation process, I'm all for it."
I also told him that what he needed to do, in my opinion, was what was best for the institution, and whatever he and the president decided was going to be best for the institution was what Pete Pace was going to do.
Oh and by the way, I can read the Constitution, which says the president gets to nominate and the Senate gets to confirm, or not, and neither one of those two things is going to happen, therefore I'm not staying.
One thing that was discussed was whether or not I should just voluntarily retire and take the issue off the table. I said I could not do that for one very fundamental reason, and that is that PFC Pace in Baghdad should not think — ever — that his chairman, whoever that person is, could have stayed in the battle and voluntarily walked off the battlefield.
That is unacceptable as a leadership thing in my mind.
So I elected not to submit my request for retirement until after it was publicly known that I was no longer going to be renominated. That is very important to me.
The other part that is important to me is personal. The first piece holds true for anybody in this position, anybody.The other piece for me personally was that some 40 years ago I left some guys on the battlefield in Vietnam who lost their lives following Second Lt. Pace. And I promised myself then that I will serve this country until I was no longer needed, that it's not my decision. I need to be told that I'm done.
I've been told I'm done. I will run through the finish line on 1 October, and when I run through the finish line I will have met the mission I set for myself.