- Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates (left) and CIA Director Michael V. Hayden
“There is no doubt that General Hayden is an honorable man devoted to the service of his country. Though he exchanges his uniform for a suit today, he will continue serving an organization built upon the pillars he upheld throughout his military career: duty, honor, patriotism, and service,” said Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at D/CIA Michael Hayden’s Air Force retirement ceremony at Bolling Air Force Base on June 20.
Secretary Gates, a former Director of Central Intelligence, called D/CIA Hayden the quintessential intelligence professional. “He’s a man whose career makes him uniquely qualified at a time in which our national security depends on the effective synthesis of intelligence and military operations.” During a 39 year career, D/CIA Hayden served as Director of the Intelligence Directorate at U.S. European Command, Commander of the Air Intelligence Agency, Director of the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center, Director of the National Security Agency, and Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence.
However, said Gates, “I might also note that Mike has held a few jobs in his life that have to be firsts for CIA directors.” These include: Pittsburgh Steelers ball boy, bellhop, and cabby, among others. During college, D/CIA Hayden also coached a junior high school football team, taking them to a division title.
Gates retired D/CIA Hayden from the Air Force, effective July 1, in front of hundreds of family, friends, and close colleagues in the ballroom of Bolling’s Officers Club. He presented the Director with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, and also presented Mrs. Jeanine Hayden with a special commendation for all of her work for military families, and the support that she has provided throughout the Director’s nearly four decades of service. The Haydens’ daughter then joined Mrs. Hayden on stage to present the Director with a flag that has flown over every station in the world at which he has served.
Moving to the podium, D/CIA Hayden first took a moment to speak about an even greater institution which he has served longer than the Air Force: his marriage to Jeanine. “That will always remain my greatest treasure, always be the source of my deepest happiness. This has been a team enterprise and none of this would have been possible without her,” said D/CIA Hayden. “Jeanine’s work at the Agency these past two years, where she’s working so hard to bring support to our families, simply exemplifies what she had done already many times before.” The Director presented her with a bouquet of flowers before delving into his speech, which focused on his career, his family, and the city he will always call home.
“Before the Air Force gave me my calling and showed me the world, there was the family back in the ward, as we called our neighborhood, on the north side of Pittsburgh who gave me their love, their wisdom, and memories of a place that continues to shape who I am more than anything else,” said D/CIA Hayden, whose family filled the first two rows.
D/CIA Hayden was 16 years old the first time he left the state of Pennsylvania, and one year short of college when he boarded his first airplane. For him, joining the Air Force was a conscious choice; he wanted to see the world beyond the Mid-Atlantic. “It’s going to be hard to hang up this uniform. I’ve been proud to be part of some truly remarkable organizations during the course of my career,” he said. “Those organizations will always be part of who I am, but fundamentally I was an airman first.” In 1963, the Director joined the Air Force ROTC, which was mandatory at his Alma Mata, Duquesne University.
In 1969, after leaving Duquesne with a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in modern American history, D/CIA Hayden enlisted in the Air Force, and his first active duty assignment was to attend the service’s Intel School. An illustrious career followed, including a stint as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Command for U.S. Forces-Korea where he led the United Nations side in face-to-face talks with the North Koreans at Panmunjom, and a two-year rotation with the National Security Council, where he wrote the national security strategy for the first President Bush. And this was quite the task because, “The day the new strategy was to be unveiled, I was aboard Air Force One on the phone working with the office of the head speechwriter, Tony Snow, making last minute revisions because 14 hours earlier Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait.”
And in 1999 DCI George Tenet gave him his first national level opportunity as the Director of the NSA. “The six years I served at Fort Meade mean a lot to me,” said D/CIA Hayden. “In terms of talent, skill, devotion of its people, its unmatched technical capacity, the essential value of its mission, NSA is a national treasure.”
Later, as Principal Deputy Director for the DNI, D/CIA Hayden would learn how tough it was to run the community in which the NSA exists. “During that time at DNI I learned an awful lot about how things work and sometimes don’t work in a community of 16 separate organizations,” said the Director. “It was there, when I was at the DNI’s office, that I realized that there’s an agency out there that had more connective tissue to all the other agencies than anyone else.”
When he took over as D/CIA in May 2006, he did so in his Air Force blues, but on July 1, when his retirement is official, all of that will change. “A big question is whether the workforce will still respect me when they see my selection of suits,” he joked. But the four-star general also had serious words of praise for the Agency he now leads.
“These people give far more than they get. They deserve far better than they usually receive. And when they succeed in their work and help their countrymen feel safe again, they still stay in the shadows, continue their work, and discipline themselves to ignore sometimes shrill and uninformed voices of criticism,” he told the crowd. “So, when this ceremony is over, I’m happy that my job at Langley won’t be over.”