Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III praised the stewardship of Gen. James C. McConville as he relinquished his duties as Army chief of staff Aug. 4.
Austin also marked the transfer of responsibility of the sergeant major of the Army from Michael A. Grinston to Michael R. Weimer.
Gen. Randy A. George has been nominated to serve as acting Army chief of staff, but his confirmation is on hold.
"We're here to celebrate the United States Army," said Austin, who spent 41 years in the service himself. "Even before the United States declared its independence, our new republic stood up an Army. And ever since, American soldiers have had one core mission: to fight and win our nation's wars. That takes tenacity. It takes teamwork. And it also takes transformation."
McConville and Grinston — led by Army Secretary Christine Wormuth — worked tirelessly to transform the service to face new threats.
"Today, the entire Army enterprise is updating itself to ensure that our soldiers stay ready for any challenge that the 21st century can throw at them," Austin said. "The Army is becoming a multi-domain force."
The Army is developing and fielding advanced capabilities, like long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicles, missile defense and more.
New capabilities without doctrine are useless, so the service is also updating its doctrine for the 21st century. "You've created new organizations that can provide more and better capabilities to combatant commanders and strengthen our partnerships around the world and sustain the fight whenever and wherever needed."
These new capabilities are on display in Europe where Army units deployed to safeguard NATO Eastern flank in the wake of Russia's unlawful invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
The Army is also increasing its presence in the Indo-Pacific.
"Throughout all these changes, the Army is putting people first, and that has been Gen. McConville's philosophy throughout his career as chief," Austin said. "So, the Army has been investing in housing, increasing access to child care, making moves easier, and much, much more. And the Army is making sure that all of our soldiers can contribute the full range of their talents and their skills."
McConville's motto is "Winning matters," and he's noted there is no winning without people.
"Today, the United States Army is the strongest Army, and we have the strongest military that the world has ever known," Austin said. "And it's amazing the distance that the Army has traveled since I took the oath myself back in 1975. All that progress has been powered by patriotism."
Military service is a choice. Patriots serve in the military from all walks of life "who volunteer to support and defend our Constitution and to be part of something bigger than themselves and to protect our country and our founding values of freedom and democracy," the secretary said. "Now, we're marking the 50th anniversary this year of the start of our all-volunteer force. And every American soldier today chose to serve. They chose to sign up. They chose to risk their lives for the common defense."
They deserve the best leaders, Austin said. "Unfortunately, today, for the first time in the history of the Department of Defense, two of our services will be operating without Senate-confirmed leadership, and 301 nominations for our general and flag officers are being held up," he said. "So, let me be clear: In our dangerous world, the security of the United States demands orderly and prompt transitions of our confirmed military leaders.
"Great teams need great leaders," he continued. "That's central to maintaining the full might of the most lethal fighting force on Earth. It's vital for our global leadership — and for the trust and confidence of our outstanding network of allies and partners. The failure to confirm our superbly qualified senior uniformed leaders undermines our military readiness. It undermines our retention of some of our very best officers. And it is upending the lives of far too many of their spouses, children and loved ones. And this disruption is the last thing that America's military families deserve."
Austin said he is confident the Senate will speedily confirm the next Army chief of staff.
In his remarks, McConville stressed the emphasis on people. "Without people, the Army is a bunch of combat equipment parked in motor pools, hangars and arms rooms," he said. "It's all about people. And I have watched …. people do the most incredible things over the last four years during the most challenging of times, always doing the right thing the right way; responding rapidly to crisis in the Middle East and Eastern Europe when freedom was threatened; providing hope and relief to local communities during a global pandemic; standing strong with our allies and partners on the frontlines of freedom around the world to secure peace and stability."
McConville said he and his wife Maria are proud "to have served with you and know that whenever the nation called, wherever the Army was sent, our soldiers didn't go to participate. They didn't go to try hard — they went to win, because soldiers in the United States Army know that winning matters, winning matters."