WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2013 - New Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel promised today to always be frank with the men and women of the department and said he expects all to be direct in return.
Hagel spoke to the Pentagon workforce and a worldwide audience on the Pentagon Channel just after taking the oath as the nation's 24th defense secretary.
"I'll never ask anyone to do anything I wouldn't do," the secretary said. "I'll never ask anybody to do more than I would do. That's the story of your lives. I wouldn't be worthy if that was not the case."
Army Sgt. 1st Class John Werth, a native Nebraskan and combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced the new secretary. He said Hagel already had held the most important job in the department: that of a combat infantryman. Hagel served in Vietnam as a young enlisted soldier and was wounded twice.
This is a defining time for the world, Hagel said.
"It's a difficult time. It's a time of tremendous challenge, but there are opportunities," he added. "I think it's important that we all stay focused, obviously, on our jobs, on our responsibilities, which are immense, but not lose sight of the possibilities for a better world."
Service members should not forget that America is a force for good in the world, he said.
"We've made mistakes. We'll continue to make mistakes. But we are a force for good," he said. "And we should always keep that out in front as much as any one thing that drives us every day."
The military needs to deal with the budget realities, the geopolitical challenges, cyber issues and the threats of terrorism, Hagel noted.
"We've got ahead of us a lot of challenges," he said. "They are going to define much of who we are -- not this institution only, but our country, what kind of a world our children are going to inherit. That's the bigger picture of the objective for all of us."
Facing these challenges is difficult, the secretary said.
"But it's also pretty special," he added. "When you think about ... how many generations have had an opportunity to be part of something great, as difficult as this is ... we can really do something pretty special for our country."
The secretary promised service members he will do everything he can "to ensure the safety, the well-being, the future of you and your families."
"Now, I've got to go to work," he said.