WASHINGTON, May 6, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today welcomed Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva as the new commander of U.S. Transportation Command and celebrated the accomplishments of the departing commander, Air Force Gen. William M. Fraser III, who will retire after 40 years of service.
“Today, we gather to honor Will and Bev Fraser, and to welcome Paul and Ricki Selva back to Transportation Command, and to reaffirm Transcom’s indispensable role in assuring the global reach of the U.S. military,” Hagel said during the ceremony at the Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, parade field.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that our military could not do its job without Transcom’s capabilities on the ground, at sea and in the air,” the secretary told the audience. “You help keep our people fed, our equipment fueled, and you help get everyone and everything to where they need to be on a scale that surpasses any organization in the world.”
The current age is one in which people expect immediate gratification, and that’s not easy, Hagel said.
“Though Transcom doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, every field commander, every troop, knows that when it absolutely, positively has to be there — overnight or not,” the secretary said, mimicking an ad used by a popular global delivery services company, “they can always count on Transcom to deliver.”
Hagel noted that Fraser was a bomber pilot before coming to Transcom, and said that didn’t stop him from succeeding at the command. The secretary evoked the words of Transcom’s first commander, Air Force Gen. Duane H. Cassidy: “Leadership does not depend upon whether you can operate the equipment. You can be taught how to fly airplanes, operate tanks, or drive ships; you cannot be taught how to be a leader. You have to be willing to make a commitment to somebody other than yourself.”
“That’s the kind of leader General Fraser is,” Hagel said. “And he made that commitment to all of you because he had a keen understanding of Transcom’s importance [and] its responsibilities, not only in giving his aircraft the midair refueling they needed to complete all missions, but in making sure that the entire military had the mobility, the agility and the flexibility that has always been the hallmark of our force.”
Under Fraser’s leadership, Transcom has operated on every continent, from drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan to transporting scientists and equipment to and from the U.S. research center in Antarctica, Hagel said. “What General Fraser says is true: ‘The sun never sets on Transcom,’” the secretary added.
On Fraser’s watch, Transcom has transported more than 1.1 million passengers, flown nearly 950 million pounds of air cargo, dispensed some 300 million gallons of tanker fuel and shipped over land and sea roughly 1.6 billion pounds of cargo and 900 million gallons of fuel, the secretary said.
Fraser also led Transcom in undertaking the most comprehensive and collaborative strategic planning effort in the command’s 26-year history, giving his successors the guidance to understand Transcom’s responsibilities, challenges and opportunities, Hagel observed.
“He had a vision that was not only about logistics, but also about relationships,” he said. “Having learned the diplomatic dimension of global affairs as military aide to Secretary of State [Condoleezza] Rice, General Fraser was able to forge new relationships and strengthen existing partnerships, traveling as often as necessary to ensure that Transcom could always accomplish its missions.”
Fraser embraced Transcom’s role in DOD’s expanded mission of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, he added, helping to make Transcom a force for good around the world whenever disaster struck.
And, Hagel said, when the United States took on the responsibility of a task that had never been done before — destroying at sea one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical materials from Syria– Fraser helped to ensure that the MV Cape Ray was activated and modified for its mission.
“It is now General Selva’s responsibility to continue this work,” the secretary said.
“After growing up watching Air Force tanker and cargo aircraft fly in and out of the Azores, he found his future and he found his wife, Ricki, at the U.S. Air Force Academy,” Hagel said. “This began a career of excellence spanning nearly 35 years in uniform.”
In that time, Selva proved himself a unique leader who embraces change and innovation, he added.
“Just recently, as the leader of Air Mobility Command, he oversaw the critical design review for America’s newest refueling tanker, the KC-46, and personally delivered the final C-17 to complete the Air Force’s fleet,” the secretary said.
Selva helped to deploy new aeromedical evacuation teams that not only get wounded patients out of difficult locations quickly, but also perform critical stabilizing surgery before takeoff or while in-flight, Hagel added. He also brings to the table diplomatic expertise on par with Fraser’s, the secretary added, having succeeded Fraser as military aide to Rice and staying on to advise Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for more than two and a half years.
“General Selva’s time in the front seat of diplomacy and his openness to new ideas will be critical assets as he takes command of Transcom at this important time in our history,” Hagel told the audience.
“General Fraser,” the secretary added, “we wish you and Bev and your family all the best as you conclude nearly four decades of distinguished service to your country. Everyone here today knows that together, you delivered.”