As Delivered by Gen. Powell, Gen. Dunford, and SgtMaj Booker in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at the 2014 Distinguished Leadership Awards.
Photo gallery

 2014 Honorees

Distinguished International Leadership
Chuck Hagel
Jose Manuel Barroso

Distinguished Business Leadership
Thomas Enders

Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership
Ruslana Lyzhychko

Distinguished Military Leadership
Joseph Dunford

Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Phil. And good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank you what a great pleasure it is to be back with the Atlantic Council family. And I wanna add my congratulations to your new chairman Jon Huntsman as he assumes the chairmanship of the Atlantic Council at a time when its importance and impact (MIC NOISE) are growing daily in policy, intellectual and political circles.

I’m also pleased to have Jon has– a new neighbor out in McLean, Virginia. He’s living just down the street from me. I don’t think it’s a secret. It’s a matter of public record. He bought a house from Senator Fred Thompson. And Jon, if you need a reverse mortgage, I know where you can (LAUGH) get one. (APPLAUSE) (BACKGROUND VOICE) Had to lighten things up here, you know.

I’m really pleased and honored to be here tonight to present the Distinguished Military Leadership Award. The award is going to the men and women of the International Security Assistance Force in Vietnam. There’re a lotta leaders in this room. There’re a lot of leaders around the world. But good leaders know that it’s the followers who get the job. And our job as leaders is to put them always in the best possible environment to succeed with the mission.

And those are the individuals we’re gonna recognize tonight. We had hoped to have U.S. Marine Corps General Joe Dunford here to accept the award on behalf of the men and women of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, but he could not make it tonight for obvious reasons. He’s busy providing security for the runoff election retro reading of thousands of troops and tons of material. All the while, transitioning security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces. But he did send a video message. And I ask you now to turn your attention to the screens.

Thank you, General Powell, for your introduction, your leadership and your many years of service. And good evening, Government Huntsman, President Kemp, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It’s an honor for Sergeant Major Booker and I to join you tonight to accept the Distinguished Military Leadership Award on behalf of the men and women of the International Security Assistance Force.

It’s an equal honor to be recognized alongside Secretary Hagel, President Barroso, Dr. Tom Enders, and the inspirational Ruslana. For over 50 years, the Atlantic Council has worked to strengthen the Transatlantic alliance and to promote our collective security. Your efforts have significantly contributed to the strength of the alliance today. Here in Afghanistan, NATO is leading a coalition of 48 nations who recognize that security and stability in this region effects our collective security.

The coalition has remained strong and endured through many difficult years of combat operations. Tonight, I’m proud to report that the men and women of ISAF are doin’ well. They are smart, tough, spirited and committed. They are proudly following thousands of others who have answered the call to duty and served in harm’s way since 9/11. And their morale is high because they know they’re makin’ a difference. They have denied safe haven to Al Qaeda and have prevented other terrorist attacks from originating (SNIFF) from this region.

They have built capable and confident Afghan forces that are now securin’ the Afghan people in the gains that we’ve made over the last decade. The signs of progress are real. Early this month, we saw our Afghan partners provide the Afghan people with the opportunity to vote. We also saw the Afghan people defy the Taliban and cast their ballots in record numbers. The election highlighted the most important contribution our troops have made to Afghanistan. They’ve brought to the Afghan people something they simply didn’t have in 2001.

They have inspired hope in the future. (THROAT CLEAR) (COUGH) During 12 years of war and repeated deployments, our troops have done all that we’ve asked of them and more. I know you share my pride in their accomplishments. And you should know the important role you have played in their success. Their courage, competence and commitment are a direct reflection of your support.

Over the past decade, our troops haven’t had to look over their shoulders to check their 6:00. They have deployed knowing that they had the full support of the folks back home. And that’s all they needed to stay focused on the task at hand. I know you’ll continue to support them until the mission is complete. Once again, on behalf of the men and women of ISAF, both past and present, thank you for the honor and this recognition. Please enjoy the rest of the evening. (APPLAUSE)

We send our thanks to Joe Dunford for that message. We are very proud of him and, of course, of all the troops that he is leading. While Joe could– not be here tonight this evening– he sent a worthy successor. He sent his senior enlisted advisor, Sergeant Major James Booker, of the United States Marine Corps. Sergeant Major Booker is a true war fighter. Smart, humble. And he’s been recognized for gallantry in some of the most difficult places on earth.

He spent his days as a young– Marine– as a young Marine with Corps Force Reconnaissance Units and has served with the Infantry, Armored, Artillery and Amphibious Vehicle units. As a true Marine, he has served in the air, on the land and at sea. On land, while in Ramadi, Iraq, he received the Silver Star for valor in combat. At sea, he has spent considerable time with various Marine expeditionary units.

Ladies and gentlemen, Sergeant Major Booker is joined tonight by several other members of the NATO ISAF mission, including Colonel Alan Litster, Sergeant James Bartley (PH) and Flight Sergeant Emily Clarion (PH) of the French Air Force. I ask all of them to join me onstage. And I also ask General John Allen, Former ISAF Commander, and General Phil Breedlove (UNINTEL) to join me in the presentation. (APPLAUSE)

Sergeant Major– thank you. Sergeant Major, on behalf of the Atlantic Council and its board of directors, please accept this award on behalf of all the men and women who serve with ISAF in Afghanistan. We cannot think of a group of men and women more deserving of this award. And please accept it in their name and on our behalf. Thank you.

Thank you. (APPLAUSE) (WHISTLE) (BACKGROUND VOICE) (THROAT CLEAR) (BACKGROUND VOICE) Thank you, General. Honorable Governor Huntsman, President Kemp, Secretary Hagel, General Powell, General Jones, General Allen, General Amos, General Breedlove and members of the Atlantic Council, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Sergeant Major Battaglia and those other generals and admirals that I did not– know were gonna be here, no disrespect. (LAUGH)

I’d like to take this opportunity to grad– congratulate the Secretary Hagel, President Barroso– Dr. Tom Enders and Ruslana on receiving this high award tonight also. General Powell, thank you for your warm introduction. You’re an honor– it’s an honor– you honor us with your presence here tonight and your many years of public service. I’d like to also extend a heartfelt thanks to the Atlantic Council in recognizing their efforts in recognizing the efforts of the men and the women of ISAF, both past and present.

My colleagues and I are both honored and truly humbled to be standing here tonight and receive this award on behalf of General Dunford and the men and women of the International Security Forces Afghanistan. (NOISE) Colonel Litster of the British Royal Marines, Sergeant Bartley of the Canadian Army and Flight Sergeant Clarion of the French Air Force all stand here today r– as representatives of the millions of men and women who make up the 48 contributing nations to the NATO and ISAF Coalition.

Those who came before us and those who currently serve continue to work towards training, advising and assisting our Afghan counterparts in securing that afghan p– providing security for the Afghan people and denying the safe haven for the Al Qaeda. Once again, we’d like to thank you for your support over the past decade.

And on behalf of the men and women of ISAF for this honor, I will take the award back. I leave tomorrow. And– at 07:30 on the 3rd of May I’ll report back to my commander and tell him of the kind words and the warm reception I received on his behalf. And I can’t thank you enough.