Maj-Gen Paul Symon, Deputy Chief of Army, address at Change of Command Parade
23 June 2011
Speech: Deputy Chief of Army address at the Change of Command Parade, Canberra, 24 June 2011
Check against delivery.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to speak on behalf of the Army; to thank and pay tribute to the distinguished service of our Chief. To attempt to capture, in a few short minutes; his service; what has driven him; his leadership; and a glimpse into how hard he has driven us, both publicly and behind the scenes.
During his earlier career path, General Gillespie was too young to be selected for service in Vietnam and became a member of that band of Officers and Soldiers who entered a period of unprecedented peace. These men trained hard, played hard and worked diligently. As a Commander during this time, he ensured that standards remained high. This was not easy when budgets were cut and large segments of the nation questioned the Army’s worth. Those of us in uniform today are beneficiaries of the Chief’s unique generation, their professionalism, and their particular brand of selfless dedication.
Successful people embrace change. They understand that change is constant and they adapt. Throughout his career, General Gillespie has embraced change, transitioning from Soldier to Officer; commanding a number of inaugural Organisations including the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment, the Australian Theatre Joint Intelligence Centre and the Australian National Command element on Operation Enduring Freedom, the liberation of Afghanistan in 2001 from Taliban and Al-Queda control.
General Gillespie has also driven change. He has embraced technology and cajoled us into acceptance of social media as a vehicle to break down barriers and to get our story out. Our Chief has face booked, twittered and blogged us into the 21st century. His legacy is assured in this regard.
He has presided over the most significant command and structural changes in Army since the Hassett reforms of the mid 70’s. He transformed the speed with which we learn, absorb and apply lessons from operations by refining army’s learning loops. The Chief has worked us hard to develop Army as a powerful, balanced organisation. It should be noted that all of his Adaptive Army achievements have been attained without detriment to supporting Army’s high operational tempo. This is testament to his focus, prioritisation skills and raw leadership.
It should be noted that, while he has driven his staff hard, none has worked as hard as General Gillespie himself. He has always led from the front – that’s the only way he knows how to lead.He was persistent in his fight to increase Army’s capability, efficiency and agility. His success in providing the soldier the best equipment he could will surely be one of his legacies.
General Gillespie’s care for Army and its people was absolute. It manifested itself in the creation of recruitment and retention initiatives, career pathways, sun smart policies and alcohol management strategies. In sum, he respected soldiers and he sought to empower them. He would listen as attentively to a Soldier as he would a General.
He has led in difficult times. During his term as Chief, we have had 23 soldiers killed on operations. General Gillespie pained terribly over these losses and he still does. This motivated the development of welfare and rehabilitation initiatives for injured soldiers. This legacy is representative of his compassion and desire to look after his people.
Leadership of the Army requires perpetual motion. It is indeed a family affair given the demands of the job. On behalf of the Army, I particularly wish to place on the public record the dignity, selflessness, charm and grace of Carmel, Ken’s wife, and Moira, his daughter. We thank you both for your patience and fortitude. You have both served your nation, in your own quiet way, with great generosity and dignity. On behalf of the Army, thank you.
Sir, the day has finally come. You can look back and reflect on the achievements of the apprentice brickie who became our Chief, who led with distinction and commanded Australian troops on operations.
You have shared our success and always ensured the accolades went to our most precious asset – our soldiers. The positive judgment of our soldiers is arguably the hardest test of all to pass, and you, sir, have passed this test with distinction.
On behalf of our soldiers, thank you. I know that me conveying their thanks and their appreciation means more to you than anything else I can convey here this morning. Take care. Rest assured your legacy is as profound as it is secure.