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Secretary, Troops Surprise Each Other

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

SHANNON, Ireland, Feb. 22, 2004 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his traveling party weren't the only Americans to refuel here in today's wee hours.

Two companies of soldiers from the 120th Engineer Battalion, 90th Troop Command, Oklahoma National Guard, were getting ready to reboard their aircraft. Their civilian aircraft pilot saw the secretary and introduced himself as a former Air Force pilot. He told Rumsfeld more than 200 soldiers were right through the doors the secretary's party was about to enter.

The defense secretary needed no introduction. The soldiers gave him a spontaneous, tumultuous welcome, and quickly surrounded the beaming Rumsfeld. The secretary shook some hands, exchanged some greetings and posed for countless pictures with the soldiers for about 10 minutes. Then he stood on a chair and offered them words of thanks and encouragement, punctuated by the soldiers' hearty shouts of "Hooah!"

The Guardsmen of the 120th have been mobilized and in training for their deployment since mid-December. Spc. Rebecca Patterson of Wagner, Okla., said she and her comrades had no idea they'd meet the secretary of defense. She pointed out that the small amount of time they spent together had a big effect on her level of motivation.

"Every word he said inspired me," she said. "He has a real presence, and this was a great surprise."

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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