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Retirement Ceremony for Captain Jerry Hendrix

As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C., Friday, June 27, 2014

Thank you very much for that kind introduction. I hate when bios are just read so thank you so much.

Mr. Marshall, Adm. Daley, Adm. Hunt, distinguished flags and SESs, guests, ladies and gentlemen, friends and family of Capt. Jerry Hendrix, and to the men and women who serve the Navy History and Heritage Command, thank you all so much for allowing me to come over here in this cradle of naval history. This is an inspiring location to celebrate a career of this extraordinary officer Gen. Richard Gere… oh, I'm sorry Jerry Hendrix.

I think all of you know the patriotism and dedication and fortitude of men and women like Jerry, but what makes the United States Navy, indeed the entire United States military the best in the world, but the other part that makes our military so strong is the support system that stands behind our men and women in uniform, their families. I know that Scott talked to you about the Hendrix family, but I'd like to take the time to welcome and recognize Jerry's own support system, his wife Penny and his very accomplished daughters Amanda and Michaela. And I understand Amanda is an all-regional, all-state fast-pitch softball player, batting average at .485, has the longest homerun on record this season, and quite an accomplished softball player. And Michaela is just as good at basketball and plays the cello.

And behind all of them is of course is Penny who makes the trains run on time trying to get everybody to where they have to go. And taking care of Jerry I’m sure is a full time job.

Penny, Amanda and Michaela, when I was undersecretary of the Navy, Jerry bragged about you all the time. Really. I'm not making this up. He’d come in, and just tell me how much he appreciated you and how much. And it just enabled him to serve with great distinction, and we just can't thank you enough.

I'd also like to welcome Jerry's parents, Jerry and Carol, his Jerry who's also a Navy veteran. Thank you for your service Jerry, I really appreciate it. Thanks to you both for raising such a fine gentleman and an honorable man. Knowing Jerry, that was a full-time job, too.

Now, it's difficult in a very short amount of time, after 26 years, of trying to encapsulate what someone has provided to the nation and to the Navy, and how much Jerry has really meant to everybody he has worked with. So I'm going to try, but his story well has always generally been a profile in excellence. And you know, as a fellow ROTC graduate…in his case he went to the second-best school in the Big Ten, Purdue. I went to the University of Illinois.

He earned his Naval Flight Officer wings and served in numerous positions, including multiple tours overseas, and he commanded a tactical air control squadron in Coronado, California and deployed often throughout the world. In addition to he also attended the Naval Postgraduate School, Harvard University, and received his PhD in War Studies from King's College London. As a result he was selected as the Navy Fellow at Harvard University's Weatherford Center for International Affairs, and he authored an outstanding book, which I’m proud to say he autographed for me, on Theodore Roosevelt’s naval diplomacy.

Now having a PhD and a person who distinguished themselves in service and held command really puts Jerry in a very, very select company, very small group of naval officers who have PhD and have commanded. Among those are Adm. Jim Stavridis and Adm. Frank Pandolfe, there's not too many. When I left the service -- or when I left as Under Secretary of the Navy, I think there were only five PhDs, so that gives you an idea of how select this group is.

And as you might expect of him, he found himself in jobs that required being able to balance operational excellence and historic history and judgment, so he found himself in positions in the Pentagon, like the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, where he contributed to the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, and the future design of the carrier air wing. His reputation for possessing a keen strategic vision and often unconventional, but very, very intriguing ideas, led to his being recruited by Andrew Marshall’s Office of Net Assessment. There he worked on the Department's energy policy and our strategy in the Western Pacific.

So I first met Jerry when he was working in policy and Office of Net Assessment and many of my friends from Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. 

And later, as the Undersecretary of the Navy, I leaned very heavily -- he was in the Secretary of the Navy's advisory panel and I would always chat with him about the future of the Navy, the future of fleet design in long conversations and long debates. And during these discussions, I was always impressed by his passion for maritime history and his ideas and his vision on how the Navy never wanted to lose focus on its heritage, which leads to the second part of this story. As an old Marine and a student of history and as a member of the Navy senior leadership team, I was very deeply troubled when shortcomings in the Navy History and Heritage command came to light. The Navy century old heritage, in my view is just something you do not want to trifle with, and as an accomplished naval historian, I knew that Jerry very much shared my concerns.

And I’m also here because of the importance of history, not only in the Navy but in all of our armed services. Jerry, like me believed that we cannot ignore the extraordinary sacrifices made by those who have sacrificed for our country, but also the lessons we learn from our history.

I learned from an extraordinary gentleman by the name of Richard Danzig, who was the Secretary of the Navy, and whenever a decision came up to him, he would always try to understand what got to that point. And he would describe it as driving a pile…those of you who know Richard only know Richard could do it this way…driving a pile and pulling that core up, looking at all of the different decisions that were made that led up to the point where he would have to make a decision, and that’s where having an understanding of history really helps leaders understand that none of the problems we face are really new, we've all faced them before under different circumstances, but making sure that we have history in the back of our minds is so important.

So I called Jerry in my office, and I told him I wanted to send him over to the Naval History and Heritage Command and take charge of the command as its director. The first time I asked, quite frankly, he turned me down. He was perfectly happy where he was, and I just wouldn't take no for an answer. I knew there was nobody better suited to come over to the NHHC simply because of the way that he would approach the problem.

Thankfully, for the Navy and for our country’s rich heritage, I was able to convince Jerry to come over.

Now, needless to say, the skills that Jerry brought here were the right solution at the right time. He was supported by Adm. Hunt who was director of navy staff and Adm. Greenert Chief of Naval Operations who also shares my extreme love for naval history. And someone who worked with Jerry said he was incredibly focused on what needed to be fixed and set off doing just that. He set immediately a high standard and selected people who would serve as agents of change at NHHC. Under his direction, I think the command dramatically improved the condition and the awareness of the Navy's historical artifacts and heritage, all while advancing historical scholarship in the Navy and public outreach.

I'd just like to detail a few which are going to be noted when this command receives a Meritorious Service Citation at the end of this ceremony, and one that is well deserved. This command reduced a 68-year paper back log and it was estimated to be 486 man years of work. Over 50 percent of Navy museums have now passed the “gold standard” set by the American Alliance of Museums – a distinction granted to less than four percent of all museums nation-wide. The command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch worked tirelessly to revise and update the Sunken Military Crafts Act for archeological research permits for over 17,000 globally dispersed ship and aircraft wrecks. Curator Branch transferred 100 percent of at-risk art and artifacts to temporary storage facilities equipped with proper temperature and humidity controls to stop the decay and the command laid the groundwork to get two historic ships, the USS Constitution and Nautilus into badly needed overhaul. While he was doing this he was supporting the office of the Secretary of the Navy. The office came under intense scrutiny because of ship naming and with the help of Jerry we completed an exhaustive history of ship naming and I think we were able to conclusively demonstrate that what the Secretary of the Navy was doing was right in line with history and practices of ship naming.

Thanks to his leadership, and the hard work, determination and commitment of the officers, enlisted and civilian employees of the Naval History and Heritage Command, our nation's rich, rich naval history and heritage is now being properly cared for. For everything Jerry has done for our Navy and NHHC, I felt a personal obligation to come here today, now I do have a busy schedule and I don’t intend to come to a lot of retirement ceremonies. But this is one that literally, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror and say I could miss.

I wanted to express my personal gratitude to Jerry for everything he's done, taking this critical job, for his professionalism and personal dedication. I also want to commend all of the men and women who work at NHHC and all who work and conducted millions of man hours that went behind these accomplishments. I'm just in awe of what you did, on what you've done, and what you will do, and I can't wait to hear the citation from the Meritorious Service Citation.

Jerry, as you transition to your second career, I know you will continue to make enormous contributions to the important debate on the future of our military and America's national security. Thank you so much for your years of service. Thank you so much for the years of support that you provide Jerry and to the entire Department of Defense. And I wish you and Penny and the girls the greatest of luck and the greatest of fortune and fair winds and following seas in the next chapter of your lives. Thank you so much. Thanks to everyone who supports our great Navy and our nation. God bless America.

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