Cheney, Rumsfeld Encourage, Laud U.S. Troops in Afghanistan
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Dec. 7, 2004 U.S. troops here spent time with two high-level U.S. officials who were in the country today to attend the inauguration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ate breakfast with U.S. troops in military dining facilities and visited with American servicemembers in several locations on this sprawling air base.
Cheney started the day eating breakfast in Bagram's Viper Dining Facility with troops from Combined Joint Task Force 76. He told the servicemembers gathered there, mostly soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division deployed from Hawaii, that they are vital to the security of the United States.
"Your children and my grandchildren will live in freedom tomorrow because of what you're doing today," he said.
Still, Cheney cautioned, there are still dangers here. "Our coalition still has important work to do," he said. "Freedom still has enemies here in Afghanistan. And you are here to make those enemies miserable," he added, to loud cheers and applause.
Before he left the dining facility, Cheney administered the oath of enlistment to 30 soldiers who were re-enlisting: 26 active soldiers, and two each from the Army Reserve and National Guard.
The 25th Infantry Division has been experiencing "a rush on re-enlistments" because many soldiers whose enlistments were extended to complete this deployment are now coming into their re-enlistment window, generally 12 months before a soldier is scheduled to separate from the service, explained the division's acting command career counselor, Army Sgt. 1st Class Glen Robinson.
Robinson also noted that many soldiers prefer to re-enlist during a deployment to a combat zone because pay received there -- including re-enlistment bonuses, which can run to up to $15,000 -- is tax-free.
In congratulating today's re-enlistees, Cheney acknowledged they're making a sacrifice for their country. "You accepted a big job," he said. "A deployment some 7,000 miles from home is never easy on you or your families."
He also presented awards to six soldiers, including a Bronze Star Medal to Army Maj. Lance Davis, a brigade operations officer. Davis received the award for work he did to ensure the success of Afghanistan's recent presidential elections.
After Cheney left, Davis said having the vice president award him a medal was "a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Cheney also presented three Purple Hearts, one Joint Service Commendation Medal and one Army Commendation Medal.
While the vice president was visiting with 25th Infantry Division troops, Rumsfeld was across the air base having breakfast with servicemembers from the Combined Joint Special Operation Task Force on Camp Vance.
After breakfast, Rumsfeld walked a short distance, shaking hands with troops, and spoke to a small formation. There, he told individuals from several military services that what they're doing here is not in vain.
"Every time I come (to Afghanistan) I can see the progress that's being made, the energy that exists in the country, the refugees returning home," the secretary said, noting this was his eighth visit to Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom kicked off following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
However, he also warned the servicemembers the war on terror is not over in Afghanistan. "There's still groups of extremists that would like to take this country back," he said, adding, "But that's not going to happen.
"You folks are going to be able to look back on your lives in five or 10 or 20 years and feel that you have been a part of something enormously important," he said.