February 16, 2001
By Sgt. Bradley Rhen
WASHINGTON As he stood
in front of the troops assembled to honor him at his farewell
tribute, Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera explained why one
of the platoons stood out from the rest.
"I asked if at this ceremony, one platoon of The Old Guard could be dressed in BDUs, because as I look out at them that's how I remember our soldiers," he said.
The soldiers who were wearing Kevlars and carrying M-16s with bayonets fixed reminded him of the men and women he met while visiting troops around the world - in places like the DMZ in Korea, like the ones he went out on patrol with in Bosnia and in Kosovo, and the ones he had Thanksgiving dinner with in the Sinai, he said.
Caldera, who became the 17th Secretary of the Army on July 2, 1998, was honored Jan. 16 at Fort Myer's Conmy Hall. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki hosted the ceremony, which featured troops from the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) and The U.S. Army Band, "Pershing's Own."
Shinseki presented Caldera with the Department of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious service while assigned as the secretary of the Army.
Caldera's outstanding contributions to the Army and to the nation in the areas of transformation, restructuring our recruiting and marketing strategies, initiating innovative housing privatization programs, and improving the in-service educational opportunities available to soldiers will resonate as his lasting legacy for years to come, the citation read.
Shinseki presented Caldera's wife, Eva, the Army Com-mander's Award for Public Service for exceptionally meritorious service while providing exemplary support and assistance to her husband during his tenure as the Secretary of the Army.
Shinseki also presented Department of the Army coins to the Calderas' daughters Allegra, Sophia and Camille Caldera to commemorate their parents' support for the Army.
"I want you to know how honored I have been to serve as your secretary," Caldera said. "Eva and I have been touched and deeply honored by our association with you. We are humbled to stand in your presence.
"We are inspired by your brightness, by your dedication to our country and to the concept of duty, by your willingness to step forward and represent our nation all across the world, often at great personal sacrifice, far from family and loved ones, representing what is best about our nation," Caldera continued.
Shinseki said although the time has passed quickly, the footprints the Calderas leave behind will long affect and influence the young men and women who chose to serve this nation in uniform.
"Two and a half years ago, Secretary Caldera faced a number of challenges as he assumed the duties of Secretary of the Army: manning the force, integrating its components, educating its workforce and correcting some significant challenges and resources with which to pursue a direction for the future," Shinseki said. "And in two and a half years, much progress has been made. It has taken visionary thinking, tremendous determination and a tireless commitment to the Army and its excellence."
Shinseki said one of Caldera's most significant achievements during his tenure helping scribe a vision for the Army in the 21st century. The vision talked about three things: people, readiness and transforming the Army into a strategically dominant and responsive force for all the missions it is asked to perform across the spectrum of military operations, Shinseki said.
"Today that transformation lives, thanks in large measure to Secretary Caldera's extraordinary success in increasing funding for our Army," Shinseki said.
Shinseki said Caldera has also been instrumental in restructuring the Army's recruiting and advertising campaign.
"After thorough analysis, he determined that we needed to update our recruiting approaches with today's young people," Shinseki said. "The end result is `An Army of one,' which we aired just last week and is already receiving rave reviews."
A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Caldera served as an officer in the Army from 1978 to 1983. He rose to the rank of captain, and his assignments included serving as a military police platoon leader, a battalion intelligence officer, and a battalion executive officer.
Caldera said he and his family are inspired by what today's soldiers do each and every day, and the soldiers and their families will always be in the Calderas' hearts.
"Although this day may mark a final roll call with you as your secretary," Caldera said, "I will always be there to advocate on your behalf those things that you need to do this important job for our country and for the support that you and your families deserve as you represent us so ably all across the world."
Sgt. Bradley Rhen is the editor of the Pentagram.