Pentagon Leaders Praise Willard, Welcome Locklear to Pacom
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
WASHINGTON, March 9, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the outgoing chief of U.S. Pacific Command for his leadership and welcomed his successor today.
Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard, who retires after nearly four decades of naval service, passed the leadership of Pacom to Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii.
"Admiral Willard brings to a close a remarkable, nearly four-decade career as a naval aviator," Panetta said. "It has taken him to every corner of the globe and to almost every level of command from fighter squadron to commander of the mighty 7th Fleet and now the Pacific Command."
Panetta characterized Willard as "a proven and very effective leader" who also spent time at the Pentagon serving on the Joint Staff.
"He's a brilliant and accomplished military officer," Panetta said of Willard. "He always offers very deep strategic insights into the most-pressing security challenges. And his very plain spoken manner has made him an outstanding leader here in the Asia-Pacific."
Panetta noted the critical need to maintain a presence in the Asia-Pacific theater.
"This is an extremely important theater," he said. "And this is a pivotal moment in history when America's future, in many ways, depends on the peace and prosperity of this very vital region.
Dempsey added his perspective of Pacom's important role.
"This is no ordinary change of command," he said. "With the strategic sweep from the West Coast of Bob's home state of California to the West Coast of India, U.S. Pacific Command's responsibility encompasses almost half of the Earth's surface and half of the world's population."
"It's also deeply intertwined with our nation's destiny in this 21st century, a fact that we made clear in our recently released emerging defense strategy," the chairman added.
Dempsey praised Willard's leadership since the admiral took command of Pacom in 2009.
"For almost three years, Bob and his 330,000 teammates nobly represented our nation's prestige with 36 of the most-vibrant nations in the world," he said. "He epitomizes credible leadership."
"He is rock solid, unflappable, and as I mentioned earlier, humble, all balanced with a touch of California cool that you'd expect from a great fighter pilot," Dempsey added.
"The good news is we're placing this command in the hands of another extraordinary couple, Sam and Pam Locklear," Dempsey continued. "Sam your record for the Navy speaks for itself. And your leadership in Europe, most recently, expertly working with our NATO partners advanced our efforts to help the people of Libya turn a new and more promising page in their history."
Panetta pointed to a crucial time in the Pacific and the need for a strong leader.
"I can't think of a more critical time when the nation needs the very best," he said. "The very best in military experience, military leadership and military advice to be able to confront the challenges and the threats that we face in the world today."
Dempsey said a "new and promising chapter" awaits the new Pacom commander as focus shifts to the Pacific region.
"This may sound daunting but I know the men and women of Pacom are ready for whatever challenges they may face," he said.
"I can't think of a better couple to lead them than the Locklears," Dempsey added. "You two have my complete trust, confidence and support."
Leon E. Panetta
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III