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Cheney Thanks Sailors, Marines During Visit to Bonhomme Richard

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2006 – U.S. sailors and Marines embody American ideals, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said yesterday in San Diego during a visit to a Navy amphibious assault ship.

"Each one of you has dedicated yourself to serving our country and its ideals, and you are meeting that commitment every single day," Cheney told sailors and Marines during a rally for Expeditionary Strike Group 1 aboard USS Bonhomme Richard. "You're a spectacular group that has carried out humanitarian missions, disaster relief, and combat operations."

He said sailors and Marines are serving the United States during a challenging time, as it transforms its military forces and fights the global war on terror.

"We have asked you and your comrades to carry out urgent, difficult assignments one after the other," he said. "You have done so, day in and day out, with exemplary skill and honor."

The vice president said the ships in the strike group provided key support during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and to various humanitarian efforts.

He pointed out the work of crews aboard USS Tarawa, which provided humanitarian relief in the Philippines; USS Cleveland, which conducted maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf, trained with the Iraqi navy, and transported tons of heavy equipment, food and supplies to Pakistan after a massive October earthquake; and USS Pearl Harbor, which offloaded heavy equipment needed to clear roads, set up hospitals, and save lives in Pakistan, as evidence of the sailors' and Marines' dedication.

"Aboard these ships, on this base, and across the globe, Americans in uniform are writing a new chapter of excellence and achievement for the United States armed forces," Cheney said. "You bring relief to the helpless, hope to the oppressed. And you are protecting the people of this nation in a time of war."

Cheney said there is more work to be done in the war on terror because the U.S. faces a ruthless and determined enemy. "We are dealing with small groups of highly motivated extremists, operating in the shadows, determined to carry out missions of murder of increasing size and audacity," he said. "They came into our country to murder thousands of our fellow citizens. They continued attempting to evade our strengths, to search for our weaknesses in order to find ways to strike again."

The greatest danger to civilization is the prospect of a terror network acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Cheney said.

"In the face of such enemies, we have to consider a few basic questions: First, whether to confront them on our terms or on their terms; second, whether to face them on their territory or our territory; and third, whether to wage this war on offense or defense," he asked.

The United States has answered these questions, he said. "Wherever terrorists operate, we will find them where they dwell, stop them in their planning, and bring them to justice. We will stay on offense and stay in the fight until the fight is won," he said.

As the U.S. transforms its military by placing more emphasis on rapid reaction forces and increasing joint operations, it will also stick to fundamentals, Cheney said.

"We're keeping our eye on the fundamentals, and one of those is sea power. Naval operations are every bit as important, if not more so, than they were in the last century," he said. "Nothing takes the place of a naval task force, able to enter any ocean, project great force from over the horizon, and keep terrorists from disrupting the sea lanes or using the ocean to transport operatives or weapons."

Sea power had a central role in taking down the Taliban in Afghanistan, he said.

"Afghanistan five years ago was in the grip of a violent, merciless regime that harbored terrorists and plotted murder for export," he said. "Today Afghanistan is a rising nation with an elected government, a market economy and millions of children going to school for the first time."

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