DLA Director Retires, Bids Farewell to Agency Workforce

With an outpouring of thanks to family, friends, leaders and sub ordinates, Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek bid farewell to the Defense Logistics Agency as he retired Dec. 19 at the McNamara Headquarters Complex.

“I’m retiring today from a one-of-a-kind, world-class organization that can do anything, the Defense Logistics Agency,” Harnitchek said as he ended his 37-year military career. “When the country calls, DLA responds.”

Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek and his wife Betty are piped ashore, per Navy tradition, at his retirement ceremony Dec. 19 in the McNamara Headquarters Complex.  (Photo by Teodora Mocanu)

Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek and his wife Betty are piped ashore, per Navy tradition, at his retirement ceremony Dec. 19 in the McNamara Headquarters Complex. (Photo by Teodora Mocanu)

Harnitchek, who has been director of DLA since November 2011, said he had many thoughts as he prepared for his retirement, but chief among them was the honor of serving alongside so many men and women who selflessly pledged to serve the nation. The admiral quoted a verse from the Bible, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here I am; send me,’” noting that so many people in DLA and around the world have made that commitment when hearing the call to serve the country.

The folks that take the oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and obey the orders of the president of the United States and the officers appointed over them, they make that promise without ever having met the president or the officers appointed over them,” Harnitchek said. “They make that promise with no guarantees, no caveats and no escape clauses, and no idea of where that promise may take them. That’s what I will remember the most, hearing that call to service above the noise of the world, of ‘Whom shall I send?’ and hearing our sons, our daughters, our neighbors and our spouses saying, ‘Here I am; send me.’”

Alan F. Estevez, principal undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, presided over the ceremony and personally thanked Harnitchek for his years of service. Calling him “a logistician’s logistician,” Estevez noted that Harnitchek has been at the center of many big events, like the start of performance-based logistics contracts, development of the northern distribution network, Haiti relief efforts and the fight against Ebola in West Africa.

“In a room full of the best logisticians in the world — not only the best military logisticians, but the best logisticians in the world — Mark is about as good as it gets,” Estevez said.

Retired Air Force General Duncan J. McNabb, who served with Harnitchek on the Joint Staff and at U.S. Transportation Command, agreed with Estevez’s estimation of the admiral. McNabb recounted his own stories of Harnitchek, who he said “was not afraid of anything” and took challenges such as up-armoring Humvees in Iraq, creating the Northern Distribution Network and cutting costs at DLA head-on without flinching. Although Harnitchek worked for McNabb, the general said Harnitchek mentored him, and repeated some of his “Harnitchek-isms” about leadership and logistics:

“Think big. Just think, this is the problem and there are three to five big things we need to do to fix it, and go do it;”

“Leadership is not for the timid or the risk averse. There is a difference between calculated risk and being foolhardy;”

“No one knows this stuff better than you do, so start acting like it;” and

“Trust your people and turn them loose. Everyone under me is empowered every day to do great things.”

Retired Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb presents the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek at his retirement ceremony Dec. 19 in the McNamara Headquarters Complex.  (Photo by Teodora Mocanu)

Retired Air Force Gen. Duncan J. McNabb presents the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek at his retirement ceremony Dec. 19 in the McNamara Headquarters Complex. (Photo by Teodora Mocanu)

McNabb also shared testimonials from senior leaders like retired Army Gen. David Petraeus and former DLA Director Navy Vice Adm. Keith Lippert, and from subordinates who have worked for him throughout his military career, all of whom praised Harnitchek’s work ethic and leadership style.

“I will tell you that in my estimation, Mark Harnitchek is the greatest logistics leader I have seen in my time,” McNabb said. “I admire him more than I can ever adequately say.”

For his part, Harnitchek gave credit to McNabb, the other leaders he worked for during his Navy career and his colleagues and subordinates for his success. He thanked the senior leaders of DLA and the agency workforce for their work keeping the agency running and supporting his efforts.

“To those of you who have not been here before, you are in the halls of the nation’s one and only logistics combat support agency,” Harnitchek said. “The home of Logzilla, a logistics force for good that can leap tall buildings in a single bound; an organization that does hard things in hours and impossible things the next day.”

Harnitchek also had words of gratitude for his international and industry partners, some of whom attended the ceremony, and for his family members, who made up a significant portion of the capacity crowd in the auditorium. The admiral also took time to thank his personal support staff at DLA, the military colleagues he progressed through the ranks with, and his personal friends who traveled to support him at the ceremony.

“Maya Angelou, the great American author, once said, ‘I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,’” Harnitchek said. “And how do I feel? Proud, blessed and beyond thrilled to have been part of this unforgettable journey with all of you.”

Air Force Lt. Gen. Andrew E. Busch, who was previously vice commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, has been confirmed as the next director of DLA.