Atlantic Council
2018 Distinguished Leadership Awards
Distinguished Military Leadership Award Presentation

Frederick Kempe,
President and CEO,
Atlantic Council
General James L. Jones, Jr.,
Interim Chairman, Atlantic Council;
Chairman, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security
General Curtis M. Scaparrotti,
Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander, US European Command
General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr.,
Joint Chiefs of Staff

Location:  Washington, D.C.

Time:  7:00 p.m. EDT

Date:  Thursday, May 10, 2018

Transcript By

Superior Transcriptions LLC


ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr.  (Applause.)

GENERAL JOSEPH F. DUNFORD, JR.:  Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  I have the honor of introducing General Mike Scaparrotti, this year’s recipient of the Council’s Distinguished Military Leadership Award.

General Scaparrotti is currently serving as the command of the United States European Command and as supreme allied commander Europe.  He’s a 1978 graduate of the United States Military Academy West Point.  And to use a Marine expression, for the last four decades he has served in literally every clime and place.  And that service includes commanding forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Support Hope in Zaire, Rwanda, Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Operation Assured Response in Liberia.

He’s an extraordinary leader, a strategic thinker, and somebody I’m proud to call a friend.  I’ve known him for many years and always admired his ability to build teams based on a foundation of trust and commitment.  In Afghanistan, he commanded more than 130,000 NATO and NATO-partnered forces from 50 different countries.  And it was his leadership that brought the force together and enabled them to thrive in the crucible of combat.  In Korea, as the commander of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea, Mike worked closely with partners throughout the Pacific to strengthen and sustain resolve, enhance U.S.-Republic of Korea interoperability, and ensure the alliance was always ready to fight tonight.

Over the last three years, as we’ve witnessed significant changes in the European strategic landscape, his steadfast leadership has forged a team of NATO military leaders able to navigate the challenges of what Fred Kempe called earlier tonight – and I think accurately described earlier tonight – as an inflection point.  As a resurgent Russia seeks to undermine the credibility of the alliance, and as the alliance has dealt with violent extremism and the challenges from the south, Mike’s led the transformation of NATO’s military capabilities to be, in NATO terms, fit for purpose for the 21st century.

Consistent with the mission of the Atlantic Council, he’s made an important and lasting contribution to the strength of our transatlantic relationships.  And ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to go off script for just a minute.  Mike is accompanied tonight by his wife Cindy, who’s sitting over here.  And she’ll probably never speak to me again, but I want to ask her to please stand and be recognized for her decades of service and support.  (Cheers, applause.)  Cindy has been there since Mike was a second lieutenant. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s now my privilege to introduce General Mike Scaparrotti, this year’s Distinguished Military Leader.



GENERAL CURTIS M. SCAPARROTTI:  Thank you, Chairman.  It’s an honor to serve this great nation of ours with you.  And the men and women of America’s armed forces are fortunate to have you as our chairman.  You personify the professionalism and selfless service that distinguishes our country’s finest officers.  And I’m grateful for your leadership, your example, and for your friendship as well.

To the Atlantic Council, I’m profoundly grateful and touched by this award.  I would like to thank the staff here in particular for their hard work behind the scenes.  And I want to extend my thanks as well to Fred Kempe and Damon Wilson for their leadership as eloquent spokesmen for this organization and for the values that the Atlantic Council upholds.  I personally, the U.S. European Command, the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, have benefitted tremendously from the Council’s expert analysis and thinking on complex issues that will define the future of our security.

I would also like to congratulate the other honorees tonight.  I am deeply humbled to recognized with you – a two-term president of the United States, a visionary servant leader who built a global company, a Grammy Award winner and philanthropist.  And then there’s me, a soldier a long way from Logan, Ohio.

The journey I’ve taken would not have been possible without the love and support of my family through the years.  My wife Cindy, my son Mike, and my daughter Stephanie and their spouses are here with me tonight, and they represent the families of our armed forces who serve and sacrifice as well.  (Applause.)  This evening I also think of my father, a noncommissioned officer and a combat vet, who taught me so much about being a soldier.

Tonight I’ll accept this award on behalf of the inspiring men and women of NATO and the United States European Command.  As we gather this evening, tens of thousands of NATO servicemembers from all 29 allied nations are deployed around the world, conducting operations, missions and training exercises in the Arctic, in the High North, in Afghanistan, along the Eastern Alliance border, in multinational battle groups from Estonia to Romania, and naval task forces tonight in the North Atlantic, the Baltic and Black Seas, and in the Mediterranean.  And they’re over the skies of Europe, providing air surveillance.

These men and women of NATO are demonstrating the alliance’s resolve and its ability to change and to remain relevant in a complex environment.  In the U.S. European Command, more than 60,000 servicemembers and civilians are forward deployed, supporting and defending our nation’s interests in Europe and in the broader Euro-Atlantic.  EUCOM forces support NATO.  They deter Russia, defend Israel, counter transnational threats, and enable operations around the world.

Every day, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians demonstrate their commitment to professionalism and excellence in their duties.  And I’m proud of all they have accomplished and all they will continue to do for our country.

Our mission in Europe is as important as ever.  As our National Defense Strategy states, a strong and free Europe, bound by shared principles of democracy, national sovereignty and a commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, is vital to our security.

Even as we affirm these principles, we recognize that democratic values are once again under assault, both by nation-states who benefit from destabilization and by nonstate actors who thrive in disorder.  They value power over principle.  And in their pursuit of power, they seek to sow discord, confusion and doubt within the nations of the Euro-Atlantic.

In the face of these challenges, some skeptics question the strength of our values and the resiliency of the rules-based international order that underpins our security and prosperity.  This is why now, more than ever, we must articulate our principles with clarity, consistency and conviction.  We must communicate our narrative of freedom, democracy and rule of law.  We must affirm the importance of our alliances and partnerships, which remain the backbone of our global security.

To those who doubt our resiliency, I would remind them that almost 70 years ago, 12 nations came together here in Washington to sign their names to a treaty stating that they were determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples.  Over the decades, this treaty and the NATO alliance it founded have been tested.  But the U.S., our allies and our partners have met every test with unity and resolve.

Today, as the U.S. and NATO face this complex and dynamic security environment, we must maintain our resolve, to obtain the defense posture we need, to continue to adapt, to preserve the unity of the alliance, and to strengthen the international order we’ve created.  And I’m confident that we’ll do so, supported by the significant work of the Atlantic Council.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.  (Applause.)

ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy your dinner.  The second half of the program will begin shortly.


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