02/12/2013 11:35 AM CST
Appreciate for Commitment to Protecting Nation
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2013 - As he prepares for retirement, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today addressed the Pentagon workforce, representing the entire Defense Department, thanking them for their contributions to national defense.
The defense secretary said knowing everything the Defense Department has done has helped to keep the country safe is his biggest source of pride as he heads back to California.
Panetta also paid tribute to the "love and support" of the workforce's families as they serve in "tough jobs."
"We face a lot of pressure, and challenges that sometimes demand we go long distances away from home," he said. "And yet throughout that, knowing that our families are there, knowing that they love and support us, is what gives us the ability to do this job.
"So my deepest thanks go out, not just to all of you, but to your families," he continued. "They are part of our Pentagon family, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their sacrifice and their dedication."
Panetta said he has come away from his experiences as defense secretary with a deep respect and admiration for all the dedication and sacrifices involved in keeping the nation safe. "Every day I see the people in this department, working and fighting together as one family, united behind our mission of protecting our country," he said.
The secretary also lauded service members for their willingness to fight to keep America safe.
"[It's] our No. 1 job, and I am so grateful for those that do that," he said. "I think that we are, as a nation, strong because there are men and women that are willing to put their lives on the line to protect our country."
Panetta also acknowledged the civilian workforce's contributions to the Defense Department's mission.
"You do everything you can to support our mission," he said. "You support our warfighters downrange. You don't get a hell of a lot of public recognition, but the fact is your efforts make a difference.
"We could not do this job without the civilian workforce," Panetta continued. "You're the unsung heroes of this nation, ... [and] are an important part of our success."
Panetta said he is "grateful and proud" as he reflects on what the Pentagon team has been able to accomplish together.
"We've developed, and are implementing, a new defense strategy that will sustain the strongest military power on Earth as we face challenges in defending our country while implementing fiscal discipline, Panetta said. "I have never believed that we have to choose between our responsibility to national security and our responsibility to fiscal discipline. We can do both."
Panetta said the new defense strategy implements key capabilities the military will need in the future, such as agility, rapid deployment, force protection and projection, and rotational deployments, among others.
"Putting those elements together was the result of a team effort by both the military and the civilian workforce here," he said. "I deeply appreciate their working as a team to put that in place."
The secretary thanked the Pentagon workforce for its part in maintaining the leading U.S. role in world affairs.
"We are the strongest military power in the world," he said. "The world needs our leadership. The world needs the United States of America to lead the world towards peace and towards prosperity."
Panetta expressed his gratitude for having the "honor" of leading the Defense Department, and told the workforce they would be "in my heart forever."
"My friends, it has been the honor of my life to have served with you in this position as secretary of defense," he said. "It's been the greatest privilege I've had in my almost 50 years of public service to be able to represent the people of this department to our friends and to our partners around the world."
Leon E. Panetta