General William E. "Kip" Ward received a standing ovation by staff members at his last all-hands meeting as commander of U.S. Africa Command, February 24, 2011, at the Kelley gym.
At the start of the meeting, awards were presented to recognize Department of Defense civilian service milestones, quarterly award winners and the volunteers of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), as well as the holiday planners. Also at this time, the Commander's Award for Public Service was presented to Tracey Whitfield, the Family Readiness lead, for her contributions and numerous volunteer hours to the command.
Following the award presentation, Dave Beckner, president of the Stuttgart Chapter of the Association of the U. S. Army (AUSA), surprised Ward, as he presented him with a gold medallion for his loyal support to the organization.
"He [Ward] has a quality that a private organization and leadership loves," said Beckner, "and that's doing what he says he's going to do. Saying if I'm in town I'll be at the meeting and he's at the meeting."
The commander took this opportunity to inform staff about the upcoming training required for all uniformed service members following the recent repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy that required service members to hide their sexual identity or risk being expelled from the services. He explained training has already started and that it will continue over the course of the next several months.
"This training package that will be presented will be such that it's done in a consistent way so that we are all understanding of it in the same way. And that's why this commonality exists across all the services. We don't have the Army doing it one way, the Marine Corps another way, the Navy doing it a different way, the Air Force doing it another. We do it as a single department." said Ward.
He spoke about his travels across the Atlantic to Capitol Hill and how AFRICOM's congressional support is "sky high". He said that both the House and Senate members recognized the difference that AFRICOM is making.
Ward went on to talk about the overwhelming desire for additional support that was expressed to him during his travels to the African continent. While visiting with the Liberian Coast Guard, he talked to many people who thanked him for U.S. Africa Command's support which has helped them build the capacity to protect themselves.
"They see someone illegally fishing, robbing them of their national treasure and they can do something about it." he said. "So when I turned around and looked at the beaches on the dock, and saw the enthusiasm of what you have done, what a great feeling of knowing what you are doing is making a difference. And our work will continue that effort."
He encouraged staff members to be open and receptive to the ideas of others and leave a positive impression with everything they do.
"You go about doing your work every day and you don't know if you are making an impression or not," he said, " but you always want to be able to look back and say, Hey, I'm leaving some footprints here, and those are footprints that if I had to walk in again, I wouldn't mind walking in those same footprints."
In closing Ward choked back tears as he spoke about his time working for AFRICOM, taking part in its standup, and being charged with doing something unlike anything else he had done in his military career.
Ward said, "It's been a privilege, an honor, and absolute joy and pleasure to be on this journey with you."
Ward became the first commander of U.S. Africa Command in October 2007. He will hand over command of U.S. AFRICOM to General Carter Ham during a ceremony scheduled for March 9, 2011.