San Diego Union Tribune

October 1, 2005

Pace is first Marine to head Joint Chiefs


FORT MYER, Va. – Marine Gen. Peter Pace took over as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday, the first Marine to hold the nation's top military office.

Pace was sworn in by his predecessor, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, with whom he served for four years as vice chairman.

Myers retired after 40 years of military service that included combat missions over Vietnam and a tour as chairman that began 19 days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks that triggered the U.S. war on terrorism. He helped to direct the military actions that drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan and brought down Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

President Bush saluted Myers for bringing "skill and determination" to every task, and said he "leaves his post with a record of remarkable accomplishment."

Bush also praised Myers' replacement as "a brilliant thinker, and an inspiring leader."

"His life is a story of the American dream," the president said, citing Pace's climb from an immigrant's son growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., to the Naval Academy and the top military office.

At the ceremony were several Marines who knew Pace at the start of his military career, in the rice paddies near Danang, Vietnam.

Pace was a platoon leader, and Barney Barnes was one of his squad leaders in 1968, when they came under fire in An Hoa. As they set up a machine gun to return fire, one of the sniper's rounds ricocheted off the gun and struck Lance Cpl. Guido Farinaro in the heart.

"I know that General Pace's first inclination was to call in the artillery and bomb the heck out of that village," recalled Barnes. "But he knew better than that."

Instead, he said, under Pace's guidance they were able to "maintain some emotional stability" and search the village, ultimately in vain, for the sniper. Then they loaded Farinaro's body onto a helicopter, and said their goodbyes to their fallen comrade. Even now, Pace keeps a picture of Farinaro – the first Marine he lost in combat – on his desk.

"It's one thing to command, but it's an entirely different thing to lead, and Peter Pace is a leader," said Barnes.

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