Vice President Thanks Scott Airmen for Terror War Support
By Senior Airman Rhina Portillochacon, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Mar. 21, 2006 Vice President Richard B. Cheney visited the U.S. military's transportation hub here today to thank U.S. servicemembers for their support in the global war on terror and assure them that the country won't abandon Iraq before the mission is completed.
Vice President Richard B. Cheney rallies troops during a visit to Scott Air Force Base, Ill. March 21. Photo by Marv Lynchard
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Cheney met with Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, who commands U.S. Transportation Command, before visiting the base's Hangar 1, where about 2,300 people awaited his speech.
"These are eventful times in the United States and for the people who wear our nation's uniform," the vice president told the group. "And this Air Force base in the heart of America is at the very center of many critical assignments."
Calling Scott Air Force Base "one of the finest in the United States," the vice president said he wanted to let the people who serve there know their efforts are appreciated. "I admire your commitment to discipline, to duty and to service above self," he said. "It's a privilege to be in your company, and I bring the respect and good wishes of our commander in chief, George W. Bush."
Cheney praised the medical evacuation and airlift support the base's units provided to victims of Hurricane Katrina last summer. "You were swift and skillful in a time of need for fellow citizens, and I know the people of the Gulf Coast will never forget what you did for them."
But most of the vice president's words focused on the base's ongoing support to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. TRANSCOM, which is headquartered at Scott, has delivered more than 2.9 million passengers and more than 7.5 million tons of cargo in support of the war on terror.
"When America was attacked on a terrible September morning four-and-a-half years ago, President Bush said that the struggle ahead would be lengthy and difficulty and would require our fullest effort and unfailing resolve," he said. "And in this fight, some of the hardest duties have come to our people in uniform."
Cheney told the group about his pre-Christmas visit to Afghanistan and his discussions with troops there. "I thanked them for their service, for all that they've done to bring freedom, stability and peace to a troubled part in the world," he said.
He cited the challenges of the mission -- tough fighting in some parts and difficult terrain and conditions -- but said, "Our people are getting the job done, together with coalition partners and an increasingly strong and professional Afghan military.
"It is impossible to overstate all that our coalition has achieved in Afghanistan," Cheney said. "And when our forces return home from that part of the world, they can be proud of their service for the rest of their lives."
Cheney said he took that same message to U.S. servicemembers serving in Iraq. He cited the third anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom and it's importance in the global war on terror. "There is no doubt that the situation in Iraq is still tense. The terrorists know that as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will lose their appeal, and the advance of democracy will inspire reformers across the broader Middle East," he said.
"The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization," Cheney said. "It's a battle we're going to win."
He dismissed arguments being made in some circles that the war in Iraq is not winnable or had already been lost, and that U.S. troops should withdrawal. "They are wrong," Cheney insisted.
"Our strategy in Iraq is clear. Our tactics will remain flexible, and we'll keep at the work until we finish the job," Cheney told the cheering crowd. "Progress has not come easily, but it has been steady, and we can be confident going forward. The only way to lose this war is if we quit, and that is not an option."
In the past, America didn't hit back hard enough when terrorists attacked, the vice president said. "They came to believe that if they killed enough Americans they could change our policy. And they are now trying to intimidate us into a policy of withdrawal and retreat," he said. "But this nation has made a decision: We will engage these enemies -- facing them far from home, so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities."
Decisions about troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground and by the judgment of military commanders on the scene, not by artificial decisions set by politicians, Cheney assured the group. "As the Iraqi forces gain strength and experience and as the political process advances, we'll be able to decrease troop levels without losing the capacity to defeat the terrorists," he said.
While praising the contribution servicemembers are making toward this goal, Cheney also directed thanks to military family members. "The military life carries both reward and sacrifices, and these are shared by the spouses and children," he said. "I want you to know that America is grateful to all of our military families."
The vice president had a special recognition for those who have lost a loved one during the global war on terror. "Our nation grieves for the brave men and women whose lives have ended in freedom's cause. No one can take away the sorrow that comes to the families of the fallen," Cheney said. "These Americans served in a noble and a necessary cause, and their sacrifice has made our nation and the world more secure. We will honor their memory forever."
Following his speech, Cheney re-enlisted nine servicemembers and administered the Oath of Office to a new recruit. Reenlisting today were: Master Sgt. Eric Ervin; Tech. Sgts. Dwayne Leadbetter and Keith Moser; Staff Sgts. Morgan Dixon, Angela Grannis, Kholifa Kabia, and Rebecca Place; and Senior Airmen Randall Lederman and Joseph Terrell. Kyle McQuiston enlisted in the Air Force.
"It was an experience of a lifetime, a chance that most people never get, and it was an honor to have my fiancée and her mother there to witness it," said Terrell, a 375th Medical Operations mental health technician. "It made me proud to wear the uniform."
(Senior Airman Rhina Portillochacon is assigned to the 375th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Office.)