Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen became the 17th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a ceremony attended by both President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. Mullen replaces Marine Gen. Peter Pace, who was not asked to serve a second term and retired after 40 years of active-duty military service. Mullen was formerly the chief of naval operations before becoming chairman, according to the American Forces Press Service.
In an open letter to service members the new top officer thanked troops and their families, calling their efforts vital to national security interests.
“Whether you serve in Baghdad or Bagram, Kabul or Kuwait -- whether you find yourself at sea in the Pacific, flying support missions over Europe, on the ground in Africa, or working every day at stateside bases -- you are making a difference and so is every person in your family,” wrote Mullen, in a statement. “Your service matters. And I do not take it for granted.”
Mullen acknowledged the challenges facing the military and that fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq is placing great demands on service members.
“I know the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking a toll on you and your families,” Mullen wrote. “They are taking a toll on our equipment, our systems, and our ability to train as well. I worry, quite frankly, that they are taking a toll on our readiness for other threats in other places.”
Mullen emphasized that operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are vital to U.S. interests.
“To the degree the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan contribute to or detract from a stable, secure Middle East, they bear a direct effect on the security of the United States. That is why my number-one priority will be developing a comprehensive strategy to defend our national interests in the region,” Mullen wrote.