Charleston Airmen Motivated by Vice Presidential Visit
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 17, 2006 An enthusiastic crowd of about 1,000 airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines and civilians gave Vice President Dick Cheney a Lowcountry welcome as he traveled to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., today to thank them for their support in the war on terror.
Vice President Dick Cheney thanks servicemembers at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and vows that the United States will see the war on terror through to success. Photo by Master Sgt. Mike Buytas, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Cheney visited "Team Charleston," home of the 437th Airlift Wing, to praise the airmen who have been flying transport missions supporting the war on terror. The unit flies the C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, a workhorse of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan as it delivers troops and cargo to the theater.
The base also is home of the Air Force Reserve's 315th Airlift Wing.
The vice president met the crowd in an aircraft hanger, approaching the podium to the tune of "Hail Columbia" as Col. Glen Joerger, 437th Airlift Wing commander, introduced him to the group.
Cheney congratulated the servicemembers for their contributions in the war on terror and to humanitarian missions around the world.
"These are eventful times for our country, and Team Charleston is at the center of a great many critical assignments," Cheney told the group. "The work you do here -- every day and around the clock -- is helping to sustain the U.S. military in the war on terror. That war goes on; and thanks in part to all of you, it's a war that we're going to win."
Cheney also thanked family members who stand behind America's men and women in uniform. "Military service, both active and reserve, also makes many demands on spouses and on children," he said. "At this base, and in military communities all across the country, servicemen and women and their loved ones are making a lot of sacrifices for the nation. The American people are grateful to all of our military families."
During the ceremony, the vice president presented Bronze Stars Awards to three airmen for accomplishments during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Receiving the awards were Chief Master Sgt. Michael Schmiege of the 315th Civil Engineer Squadron, Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Owens of the 437th Mission Support Group and Tech. Sgt. Carl McCoy of the 437th Security Forces Squadron.
On the eve of the third anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Cheney noted the political successes taking place in Iraq, with a large percentage of Iraqis turning out to participate in national elections and yesterday's seating of the Iraqi parliament. He also praised advances being made by Iraq's security forces.
Senior Airman Jimmy Vines, a C-17 crew chief, told American Forces Press Service he was struck by Cheney's assertion that the United States won't put a timeline on the mission in Iraq and will see it through to success.
"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 group. "Progress has not come easily, but it has been steady, and we can be confident going forward."
The vice president told the group terrorists look for weakness and that that the United States won't show them weakness. "And he told us that we're going to go after them so that they don't come to our streets," Vines said
Cheney said he's impressed by the armed forces and their commitment to carrying out this mission. "Each time I visit a military installation, I come away with renewed confidence in the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States," he said. "Each one of you has dedicated yourself to serving our country and its ideals, and you are meeting that commitment in a very challenging hour in American history."
Staff Sgt. Joseph Sparlin, also a C-17 maintainer, said he was struck "not so much by what (Cheney) said as by the fact that he came to our base to recognize us and thank us for what we do every day."
"It was nice to see someone at that high a level in the chain of command take time out of their schedule to tell folks basically that they're doing a good job and that he appreciates what we do," Sparlin said.
It's a message Sparlin said he and his fellow airmen hear pretty regularly from their commander and supervisors as they pull long hours on the job, but that takes on even more meaning coming from the vice president.
"He made us feel like what we're doing is making a difference and that what we're doing is for a bigger purpose," he said.
Vines agreed the vice president's visit made him feel proud of his work as an aircraft maintainer, which he admitted sometimes feels almost incidental in light of ongoing operations taking place around the world. "He made us feel really good about what we're doing for the mission every day," he said.
The vice president got a Lowcountry style reception at the Charleston base. "Everybody was whooping and hollering," Vines said. "It was really fun."