Admiral Bill Gortney assumed command of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command from Army Gen. Chuck Jacoby, Jr., in a change of command ceremony Dec. 5, 2014 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
Gortney, who was most recently the commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command and director of the Joint Staff before that, takes the reins of NORAD and USNORTHCOM from Jacoby who retires from the Army after more than 37 years of service.
Before an audience of more than 500 servicemembers, DOD civilians and community leaders and a worldwide TV and internet audience via DoDLive, the distinguished visitors (DVs) for the ceremony entered Hangar 1. The Honourable Robert Nicholson, Canadian Minister of the National Defence, led the group through the sideboys to the stage. He was followed by Gen. Thomas Lawson, Canadian Armed Forces Chief of Defence Staff; the Honorable Robert Work, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Jacoby, and Gortney.
Before formally passing the commander’s flag signifying the change of command, the DVs took the opportunity to thank Jacoby for his leadership and welcome Gortney.
“It’s an honour for me to be here today,” said Nicholson. “We not only formally welcome a new commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM, we also have the opportunity to celebrate the tremendous leadership of General Charles Jacoby. You have been a great friend to Canada during your time as NORAD and USNORTHCOM commander. I personally appreciated the opportunity to get to know you.
“You are leaving an organization that while still focused on meeting its existing tasks is also positioning itself for the challenges that lie ahead,” continued Nicholson. “Admiral Gortney, I can assure you that the Canadian Armed Forces will continue to work hand-in-hand with their American counterparts through NORAD as we continue to strengthen the incredible defence relationship that exists between our two countries.”
Work also praised Jacoby and welcomed Gortney to the command.
“When it comes down to it, as a decorated soldier, a successful commander and a proven strategic thinker, Secretary (of Defense Chuck) Hagel knew from the very beginning that he (Jacoby) was the logical choice to lead the men and women of NORAD and USNORTHCOM. The vision of vigilance and security he brought to this command was captured well in his motto – we have the watch.”
According to the citation accompanying the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the nation faced some of its most challenging natural disasters and unprecedented threats from foreign adversaries under Jacoby’s command to include the massive undertaking in support of Hurricane Sandy, also known as ‘Superstorm Sandy,’ and response to wildfires and floods in California and Colorado. Under his guidance, security cooperation with Canada and Mexico evolved into a cohesive and cooperative defense partnership.
“Our nation truly is more secure and our future is brighter because of your service, your dedication,” said Work who bid farewell to the Jacobys and said he is “confident that another proven leader and warrior is ready to follow him and lead the vital organization.”
Work concluded with one final bit of advice to Gortney that garnered a chuckle from the crowd. Just make sure to not lose the radar track on Santa, he said.
Before turning over the reins of NORAD and USNORTHCOM to Gortney, Jacoby took the time to thank all the various federal and local agencies as well as the Colorado Springs community, especially the Mayor and the Colorado 30 Group who he said have shown their support time and time again. He then turned his focus to those he commanded.
“To the men and women of NORAD and USNORTHCOM … you are a fantastic organization full of dedicated, disciplined, creative professionals who work your tails off to keep our countries safe and you support each other as friends along the way,” said Jacoby. “I thank each and every one of you for your hard work.
“Admiral Gortney is a warrior,” continued the general. “He’s a friend. He is a man who will lead these two commands into the future.”
After assuming the top position of the binational command, Gortney thanked Jacoby for a superb turnover and for the job he departs after three years.
“I look forward to working in the relationships General Jacoby has built,” said the 1977 Elon College graduate. “To the men and women who are the lifeblood of our military … who make up NORAD and UNSORTHCOM and make it what it is, there is no more sacred a mission that to defend our two homelands.”
The new commander said the command will continue to excel and concluded his speech carrying on the NORAD and USNORTHCOM motto – we have the watch.