Chuck Hagel bid goodbye to the Defense Department today with a warning that “the world is still too dangerous, and threats too numerous.”
“When I joined the United States Army 48 years ago, I could not have imagined one day serving as secretary of defense. It has been a tremendous privilege to serve with you,” Hagel said in a message to the men and women of the department.
“As I leave office, I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together over the past two years. We have responsibly ended our combat operations in Afghanistan and begun the follow-on mission to preserve our achievements there. We have bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships, while successfully responding to crises around the world. We have launched vital reforms that will prepare this institution for the challenges of the future. We have fought hard – and made real progress – against the scourge of sexual assault in our ranks,” Hagel continued.
“And after 13 years of war, we have worked to restore our military readiness and ease the burdens on our people and their families.”
He thanked personnel for weathering furloughs and long deployments in the “too dangerous” world.
“A special note to our men and women in uniform: of all the many opportunities my life has given me, I am most proud of having once been a soldier. The lessons from my time in uniform about trust, responsibility, duty, judgment, and loyalty – I have carried these with me throughout my life. As your secretary of defense, I have seen those same traits in each of you,” Hagel said.
“Whether you serve in uniform or as a civilian, you are the reason why our military is the finest in the world and the most admired and most trusted institution in America. Nothing has clarified my thinking, nothing has renewed my hope, and nothing has made me prouder than getting to know, work, and serve with so many of you who have put the nation’s interest above your own.”
Hagel told troops, “I know you will remain vigilant, continuing your important work under the leadership of Ash Carter” — the new Defense secretary confirmed by the Senate yesterday.