Addressing the members of the Military Committee, Admiral Di Paola said, “I would like to thank all of you, most sincerely, for your friendship and support throughout my three and a half years as the Chairman of the Military Committee. We have enjoyed challenging times and have achieved great things for the Alliance, and I look back on my time here with both satisfaction and a degree of pride at what NATO has done. Delighted as I am to be of service to my Nation, I shall most reluctantly have to leave the post of Chairman of the NATO Military Committee earlier than planned. I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your outstanding support, co-operation, and comradeship throughout my time as Chairman. Collectively we have worked hard and have provided the best, timely, consensual Military advice for the North Atlantic Council. I have said before, in many of our meetings, that we, the military, meet in order to gain a shared understanding and to take that understanding back to our own Nations and to our Ministers of Defence and seek their engagement – I therefore look forward to being on the receiving end of that understanding in the future!”
Referring to his new post in Rome, he added, “Italy has a strong record of participation to the Alliance and NATO-led operations and missions as demonstrated for some years in Afghanistan and Iraq and as recently displayed in Operation Unified Protector. As a Military Officer I am, naturally, proud of the contribution of our Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen and I shall continue to be proud as I do my part as Defence Minister to ensure that Italy continues to meet its fair share of the Alliance’s burden both in the short and long term. I recognise the challenges, and the opportunities, that are ahead of us, and I look forward to engaging in them personally.”
Lt. General Walter E. Gaskin will act as Chairman of the Military Committee until General Knud Bartels Chairman Designate takes up his position in early 2012. Replying to Admiral Di Paola’s farewell, on behalf of the Military Committee, he said, “Since June 2008, your dedication to this team, this Alliance and the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, has been greatly appreciated and will be missed. You have taken a close interest in the Alliance’s comprehensive agenda and your hand has played an invaluable guiding role for issues that are as different strategically and operationally as they are geographically and politically.”
General Gaskin further reminded of the critical role Admiral Di Paola had in the development of Summit decisions from Bucharest to Lisbon, in particular for the new Strategic Concept and the new NATO Command Structure. “As both a military leader and diplomat, what is truly remarkable is your ability to bring together so many different perspectives and positions to find common ground,” he added, while emphasising the strong and consistent guidance provided by Admiral Di Paola with regard to NATO operations, from Afghanistan to Kosovo, the Horn of Africa, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, Iraq, and most recently, in Libya.
Admiral Di Paola ended the meeting by thanking all the International Military Staff and his own national staff, with deep gratitude especially to his wife, Roberta, for her tireless support.