By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
May 18, 2007 – What keeps a military man like Marine Gen. Peter Pace, motivated? For the Vietnam veteran with nearly 40 years service who now serves as the military's highest-ranking officer, the answer to such a question is simple: talking to the troops. "Serving the nation's men and women in uniform is not a burden; it's an honor, and I'm proud to have the opportunity to do it," Pace told about 1,000 students and alumni here today attending the 55th annual management conference of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.
Following his speech on leadership, Pace answered questions from the audience. He talked about how he keeps his balance, his mentors, ways the public can support the troops and how he makes himself available to the American people.
Since being commissioned in June 1967 after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Pace has served at every level of military command. In September 2005, he became the first Marine to be appointed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In this position, he serves as the principal military advisor to the president, the defense secretary and the National Security Council.
Asked how he balances the daily pressures of his duties in Washington, Pace said he turns to two pictures under the glass on his desk.
One is of Marine Lance Cpl. Guido Farinaro, who died in Vietnam in July 1968 while following the orders of 2nd Lt. Peter Pace. The other is Pfc. Keith Matthew Maupin, declared missing after an April 9, 2004, convoy attack near Baghdad, who up until last week, was the only unaccounted-for soldier in Iraq. Three other soldiers have been missing since a May 12 ambush.
"I keep my balance by remembering my responsibilities," he said. "We work with some incredible young men and women. If I ever start feeling down for any reason, all I've got to do is get up from behind my desk, walk out into the corridor, stop the first person walking by and just talk to him, and that boosts me incredibly."
Asked who his mentors have been, Pace replied that there have been many, so he would only name a few. The first he chose to mention were the young men like Farinaro who served under him in combat and died.
"It is their sacrifice for this country that has kept me on active duty," he said. "When I question how I serve or whether I should serve, the memory of what I owe them is very strong in what I decide to do next."
Pace said a Marine captain named Chuck Meadows taught him to make decisions. He also noted that he'd worked for former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer when Reimer was a two-star general in Korea.
"He invested his leadership time in helping me understand my potential," Pace said. "Every chance he has had a chance to say something nice about me, to be supportive of me, to point people in my direction, he has done."
Pace said he tries to give back in return the help and guidance he's been given by Meadows, Reimer and others to the young people coming up in the military today.
When a woman asked how people could best support the troops, Pace replied, "You just did."
"Whenever I travel to see the troops," he explained, "they ask, 'Are the American people still with us?' Not, 'What do the people think about the war we're in?' But, 'Do they still value our service as military men and women?'
"And it's questions like (yours) and other comments of support that I've gotten here so far today, that allows me to tell them, 'Absolutely.'"
There are many ways to show support for the troops, he added. When people thank troops they see at the airports, it resonates. When people send packages, when school children send notes and letters, that word gets out.
For specific ways to show support, he told the audience to go to www.AmericaSupportsYou.com, a Defense Department Web site that lists home-front groups that help support the troops. In Chicago, for example, he said, people can help the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, which gives the children of fallen servicemembers scholarships.
"Thank you for asking that question," Pace told the woman. "Retention and recruiting in the armed forces right now is solid, but it is fragile." He said the troops believe in the mission they've got, and "they believe the American people appreciate their service even if they don't agree on the specifics of the conflict."
When one member of the audience asked Pace if he wouldn't be better off back in Washington dealing with the war than here talking with business leaders, the slightly stunned audience broke out in chatter. But the chairman wasn't taken aback.
"I've already learned a couple of things today that, had I not come here, I would not know," he replied.
Prior to giving his speech, he noted that he'd met first with a small group of military veterans now associated with the school and then with a group of student leaders. In both of those forums, he said, he had question-and-answer periods that helped him better understand some issues.
"Each of us have to divide our time in ways that we feel are beneficial," Pace said. "I need to determine how best to spend my time, to include how much of my time I should make myself available to the citizens of the United States to be able to ask me their questions in forums like this outside of Washington, D.C.
"For me, this is time well spent, because I am learning and I'm also making myself available to the American people, as I believe our senior leadership should do," he concluded.
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