WASHINGTON – His retirement papers had been filed, and Gen. Norton Schwartz and his wife, Suzie, were toasting their 27th wedding anniversary when a phone call intruded. Would he stay on and accept the Air Force’s top job?
The couple didn’t hesitate.
“It came down simply to this: Who would or could decline the opportunity to continue serving with the finest, most skilled and more respected airmen in the world?” Schwartz said Friday at Joint Base Andrews, where he finally retired, four years later than planned, and Gen. Mark Welsh took over as the 20th Air Force Chief of Staff.
In his time as chief, Schwartz restored rigor to the Air Force’s then scandal-plagued nuclear operations, oversaw the vital air component of U.S. wartime operations and played a key role in development of the Pentagon strategy, said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley.
“Anyone looking for an example of Air Force core values need look no further than Gen. Norty Schwartz,” Donley said.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praised Schwartz for always giving honest assessments – “straight, honest talk” – and said Schwartz recognized the importance of making drone aircraft a central part of the fight against terrorism.
Welsh, until recently the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and regarded as a compassionate leader of airmen under his command, kicked off his remarks by reminding the audience of those who’d done the work to make the day possible.
“Someone cleaned this building up,” he said. “Someone buffed this floor.”