Rumsfeld Thanks Mongolian Troops for Terror War Support
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, Oct. 22, 2005 A group of almost 200 Mongolian Army soldiers got a personal thank you today from U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for their service in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is escorted by Mongolia Minister of Defense Tserenkhuu Sharavdorj during an honor cordon in the country's capital city of Ulaanbaatar, Oct. 22. In addition to providing troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mongolia also has peacekeepers serving in Congo, Sudan and Western Sahara in Africa. Photo by Master Sgt. James M. Bowman, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rumsfeld, who made a stop here during an eight-day trip to China, South Korea and Lithuania, praised Mongolia for its support in the war on terror.
"You are a sovereign nation and you made a choice," Rumsfeld told the group, assembled in an auditorium in Mongolia's Government House. "It showed political courage and it showed personal courage on the part of your troops."
But that decision, he said, has contributed to the liberation of 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. And these people, he noted, now "will have lives that will be noticeably different than what they otherwise would have been."
Rumsfeld told the Mongolian soldiers they will one day look back and recognize the full significance of what they contributed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Similarly, he said, the people of those countries will fully appreciate the significance of what's been accomplished in their countries.
"And I know the people of those countries will be deeply grateful to you and the Mongolian people for allowing you to participate as you have done," the secretary said.
Rumsfeld singled out two soldiers - Sgts. Azzaya and Sambuu-Yondon - who fired on a suicide bomber attempting to drive a truck into their unit's compound at Logistics Site Charlie in Hilla, Iraq, in February 2004.
The soldiers "showed a great deal of courage" and "behaved in a heroic manner" by stopping an attack that could have caused great loss of life, the secretary said.
"I congratulate each of you," he said. "To put your lives at risk for your fellow soldiers is admirable."
Rumsfeld called the soldiers an example of Mongolia's army and its professionalism. "The Mongolian army has demonstrated that it is a force worthy of pride and emulation," he said.
During a news conference before Rumsfeld met with the troops, Tserenkhuu Sharavdorj, Mongolia's defense minister, reaffirmed Mongolia's continued commitment to the global war on terror.
Mongolia currently has 131 soldiers deployed the country's fifth rotation to Iraq, where they are patrolling, maintaining perimeter security and conducting a variety of other security missions. Another 15 Mongolian troops are expected to deploy next week for their country's fifth rotation to Afghanistan, where they will operate as a mobile training team to instruct the Afghan army.
"I'm proud that I had an opportunity to serve in Iraq," said Azzaya, one of the soldiers Rumsfeld singled out for recognition today.
"By doing so, I helped defend the country and contribute to international security," he said. "I believe the mission was successful, and I am proud of it."