WASHINGTON -- President Bush today nominated Gen. Peter Pace as the first Marine to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
If confirmed by the Senate, Pace will succeed Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, when he steps down in September. Myers assumed the office as senior military adviser to the president, the secretary of defense and the National Security Council in October 2001.
The president also nominated Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani Jr. to serve as vice chairman. Giambastiani currently serves as the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command and as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation. The admiral is based in Norfolk, Va.
Bush said that his most sacred duty is to protect the American people and that choosing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is one of the most important decisions the commander in chief makes.
"The first thing America needs to know about Pete Pace is that he is a Marine," Bush said at the White House. "To the American people, 'Marine' is shorthand for 'can-do,' and I'm counting on Pete Pace to bring the Marine spirit to these new responsibilities."
Pace said the task ahead of him is exhilarating and humbling. "It's exhilarating because I have the opportunity ... to continue to serve this great nation," he said. "It's humbling because I know the challenges ahead are formidable, but I have great faith in our ability to meet those challenges."
Pace said the reason he has such confidence is "that we have the world's best young men and women serving in our armed forces. Active, Guard, Reserve, civilian -- they simply deliver every time our nation calls."
Bush praised Myers for his work in preparing U.S. military forces for the threats of the new century.
"This is a huge task, even in peacetime," the president said. "Dick Myers did it while defending America from one of the most determined and vicious enemies we have ever faced."
Myers was on Capitol Hill when terrorists hit New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. He sped back to the Pentagon and manned the National Military Command Center with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
"On General Myers' watch, we toppled two brutal dictatorships in Afghanistan and Iraq and liberated more than 50 million people," Bush said. "By removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, we have made America safer and put a troubled region on the path to freedom and peace."
The president said that he is confident the work Myers set in motion at the Pentagon will continue under Pace.
Myers, who earned his commission from Kansas State University in 1965, has served in uniform for 40 years. A fighter pilot, he has flown more than 4,100 hours, including more than 600 hours in combat during the Vietnam War.
Pace was born in Brooklyn, N. Y., and raised in Teaneck, N.J. A 1967 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he began his military career as a platoon leader in Vietnam at the Battle of Hue City in 1968. He has commanded at every level in the Marine Corps and with joint forces. Bush said Pace's commitment to troops has been central to his success at every level.
Bush noted that under the glass on Pace's desk, the general keeps a photo of Lance Cpl. Guido Farinaro, the first Marine Pace lost in combat during Vietnam.
Before becoming vice chairman, Pace served as the commander of U.S. Southern Command. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1992 and served in the United States, Somalia and Japan before becoming the director for operations on the Joint Staff in 1996.
During today's remarks, Bush also lauded Giambastiani.
"He has been leading the effort to bring reform to the NATO military so our alliance is prepared for the threats of tomorrow," Bush said.
He thanked Pace and Giambastiani for their willingness to take on these new assignments.
"We still face ruthless adversaries who wish to attack our country," Bush said. "But with the leadership of men like these, the outcome of this struggle is assured: America will defeat freedom's enemies and ensure the security of our country for generations to come."