Rumsfeld Cites 2005 Successes, Challenges for New Year
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld heralded 2005 as a year of extraordinary contributions by the U.S. military and looked toward the new year as an opportunity to continue building on those efforts and transforming the military into a 21st-century force.
During a recent interview with the Pentagon Channel and the American Forces Press Service, Rumsfeld cited the array of missions the military carried out during an exceptionally busy year.
These include humanitarian efforts following the tsunami in South Asia on Dec. 26, 2004, the devastating Oct. 8 earthquake in Pakistan and hurricanes Katrina and Rita along the Gulf coast in August and September.
While supporting these missions, the U.S. military played a key role in liberating more than 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq and enabling both countries to hold historic free elections, he said.
"I appreciate this opportunity to tell the men and women in uniform in the United States and all across the globe what a truly amazing year ... you have had (and) what you have done," Rumsfeld said in his message to the troops.
These contributions have come through exceptional sacrifice by the military, he said, noting that many servicemembers will be away from their families and loved ones during the upcoming holidays.
"As you go through a period where you are away from family and friends, know that the country is grateful, that we recognize the sacrifice that you make, and we wish you all a very merry Christmas," Rumsfeld said. "And thank you for what you do."
The secretary made it clear where he believes the U.S. military stands. "We have the finest military on the face of the earth. We also have the finest military that we have ever had," he said.
"No one was drafted, no one was conscripted, no one was forced to do anything they didn't want to do," he continued. "They stood up and said, 'Send me.'"
He cited U.S. servicemembers' impact in South Asia in the tsunami, in Pakistan after its devastating earthquake, and in the U.S. Gulf states after the hurricanes, on top of "the fact that they have liberated over 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq."
The U.S. military is helping create an environment where these countries can develop democracies and provide all of their people, no matter their gender or their religion, an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a free system, he said. This "has to be noble work," the secretary said. "(Servicemembers) know it is noble work. They are proud of it and they should be."
In the year ahead, the U.S. military will continue its progress in Iraq and Afghanistan and stand by, ready to lend its unique capabilities to natural disasters and other extraordinary events, he said.
At the same time, the military will continue positioning itself to meet future challenges, he said. "We have to ... continue transforming this great institution so we can shift our weight more toward irregular warfare and the kinds of challenges we are likely to meet in the 21st century," he said.
This includes refining the military's ability to contribute to homeland defense and to protect Americans from the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists and rouge states, he said.
It also means continuing to move beyond the Cold War-era military structure and to extend the expeditionary qualities already in the Navy, Air Force and Marines to the Army. "We have to continue to make adjustments that will enable our military to be swift and agile and deployable," Rumsfeld said.
As the Army increases its number of combat brigades in the year ahead, it also will continue bolstering capabilities within the National Guard and Reserve, the secretary said. "We are going to see that the Reserve brigades have ... the equipment they need and that they are staffed up and trained up," he said.
While transforming the force and increasing its capabilities, Rumsfeld said the focus will remain on the military's most critical building block: its men and women in uniform. "We have to continue to see that we are able to attract and retain the kinds of talent that we need," he said.