Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright has a long history of commandeering technology before it was ready for the military.

So few were surprised, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn, when Cartwright–better known in defense circles as Hoss Cartwright–was soon brandishing a specially-secured iPad capable of accessing classified military information otherwise off limits to iPad devices.

Lynn highlighted Cartwright’s ingenuity in one of several farewell tributes this week to the outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cartwright is retiring in the next few weeks, after nearly 40 years of military service.

Praising Cartwright for his intuitive grasp of military operations in cyberspace, and his ability to see opportunities where others see obstacles, Lynn pointed to the iPad Cartwright carries:

“This is not just any iPad. It is an iPad certified to carry classified information. That’s right–Hoss has an iPad that carries information that Steve Jobs is not allowed to see.

“Hoss has an iPad because someone made the mistake of telling him it could not be done–that we were not ready to employ the IT devices we use in our personal lives on the job.

“So Hoss rang up DARPA. And a few days later, Hoss had his classified iPad. He not only got the tool he wanted. He jolted the system, speeding the introduction of IT across the force,” Lynn said.

Hoss has an iPad because someone made the mistake of telling him it could not be done–that we were not ready to employ the IT devices we use in our personal lives on the job.”-Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn

Cartwright’s “technical and strategic brilliance,” were among other attributes cited by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this week that contributed to the former Naval Aviator’s rise to head U.S. Strategic Command and become the eighth vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“His signature trait is to see around corners,” Lynn said. “He can spot trends [and] think a decade ahead better than just about anyone else.”

But Cartwright also earned widespread respect throughout the military for his ability over the years to sidestep the rules and find creative solutions that supported those around him and the service members he fought for–and for his ability to lead through persuasion.

“If there is a defense policy or strategy issued in the past four years that embodies new thinking,” Lynn said, “Hoss’s fingerprints are all over it.”

Cartwright was a key architect of the Defense Department’s cyber strategy, released last month, that outlines military operations and procedures for engaging threats in cyberspace.

Lynn also cited Cartwright’s efforts, along with former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, for example, in saving service members’ lives by overriding a cumbersome acquisition system to speed record numbers of mine-protected vehicles to troops in combat.

Cartwright continues to be a vocal critic of military purchasing practices. A long-standing reliance on proprietary technology solutions and antiquated acquisition rules have left the Defense Department “in the stone age as far as IT is concerned,” Cartwright, the nation’s second highest ranking military officer, said at one of his last public speeches last month.

Reflecting on what inspired him as a leader during his career, Cartwright quoted a favorite passage from Theodore Roosevelt’s famous 1910 speech:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short … who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Cartwright said those words have guided him through the years, and allowed him to find kindred spirits.

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