PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (NNS) -- Before a full house, Adm. Timothy J. Keating assumed command of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) from Air Force Gen. Ed Eberhart in ceremonies here Nov. 5.
The former director of the Joint Staff is the first non-Air Force officer to command NORAD since its creation in 1958. Eberhart had been commander of NORTHCOM since its creation following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He will retire during a separate ceremony later this year, after an active-duty military career spanning 36 years.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz called Eberhart a "trailblazer" who had led in war and peace with "imagination, independence and strong influence." These are the same attributes Eberhart exhibited as a forward air controller flying 300 bombing missions in South Vietnam, Wolfowitz said. They are also the attributes that persuaded President George Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to appoint Eberhart as commander of NORTHCOM.
Wolfowitz went on to praise Eberhart for bringing together the four military branches - including the reserve components - and the U.S. Coast Guard "under one new command." He also read a letter from Rumsfeld, which stated that Eberhart was leaving behind "a legacy that will continue to enhance U.S. security for years to come."
Turning attention to the new NORAD and NORTHCOM commander, Wolfowitz said there was "no better person" than Keating to build on Eberhart's accomplishments.
The deputy secretary said both Eberhart and Keating possess the same "spirit" as the late Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, who "inspired confidence in others" and "went on to conduct that remarkable and unconventional raid on Tokyo in 1942."
Wolfowitz said the raid announced to the world that America "was there in the thick of the fight." He said the United States is again in the thick of things because of the war on terrorism."
"They are both confidant, direct men, who mean what they say and say what they mean," he said. He added that both men are leaders with "the courage to take action and see them through."
After thanking Canada and the United States for the opportunity to serve as commander, Keating directed his comments to NORAD and NORTHCOM members, saying "you've done much for which you can be proud, so it is OK to walk with a bit of a swagger."
However, the new commander also cautioned members that protecting the nation and its territories would require "constant vigilance and more." The "more" included innovation, aggressiveness and "rock-solid readiness to respond at a moment's notice."
Keating also told members that the commands' bottom line is "securing liberty and maintaining the trust as the Canadian and American people expect and deserve." He concluded his remarks by saying that he and his wife, Wandalee, "are very proud to join this team and we ask God's continued blessings...on the United States and Canada."
During the ceremony, Eberhart received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (DDSM) (with second oak leaf cluster) and Canada's Meritorious Service Cross (military division).
The citation accompanying the DDSM said Eberhart's leadership and professionalism contributed to the security of the United States and Canada following the 2001 terrorists attacks. The Canadian citation lauded Eberhart's "strong vision and tenacious pursuit of bi-national support for the common defense of North America," which "contributed significantly to the advancement and defense programs critical to Canada."
Canadian Gen. Ray Henault, chief of the Defense Staff, presided over the NORAD change of command. Several minutes later, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, presided over the NORTHCOM change of command.
Prior to becoming director of the Joint Staff in October 2003, Keating was commander of Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. 5th Fleet. Before that, he served two years as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Plans, Policy and Operations.
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