DoD's Leaders Thank Military for Heroism, Courage, Talent
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 17, 2003 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld thanked the men and women of the department for their service in the campaign in Iraq, but said much still remains to be done.
Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers spoke to Pentagon employees during a Town Hall meeting today. The meeting was beamed to American service members around the world.
"What you have done in the last month has been absolutely magnificent," Myers said. "Your courage, your talent, your leadership have given us up to this point a tremendous combat victory."
The progress in the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, "is a credit to the men and women in uniform who are serving on the front lines in the theater," Rumsfeld said.
"What's happened is amazing for the speed with which it was executed," the secretary said. He noted that speed was responsible for reducing both coalition and Iraqi casualties. It was responsible for stopping the Iraqi regime from firing missiles at its neighbors. It was responsible for allowing the coalition to secure the Iraqi oil fields.
The Iraqi infrastructure is largely intact, he said, and there have not been massive civilian casualties. "This was not just good luck," Rumsfeld said. "This was the result of very careful planning by extraordinary people in the region, at Central Command in Tampa (Fla.) and here in the department. But above all, what has made it possible is the same thing that has made success possible in other wars: the courage and heroism of the men and women in uniform."
"Such heroics are the daily work of men and women in uniform who serve not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan and so many places across the globe, defending the American people."
The secretary said because of the presence of reporters embedded with units, now the American people have an idea of the professionalism and heroism of their military. Rumsfeld said the outcome of the embedding process was a "roll of the dice" during first discussions of the idea.
"But the outcome is pretty clear," he said. "There is no question but that the American people were able to see slices of what took place. They could see accurate presentations and representations and written accounts of what the men and women in uniform were doing."
Rumsfeld said that the embedding process has a side benefit. "There's now a new generation of journalists who have had a chance to see what kind of people volunteer to put their lives at risk. And that's a good thing."
Rumsfeld and Myers took questions from the audience on a variety of subjects.
Transformation was one hot topic. Rumsfeld said the U.S. Joint Forces Command is working with U.S. Central Command to capture the lessons learned from Iraq. "If you think about it, what took place in Afghanistan significantly informed what took place in Iraq," he said.
The U.S. military will take the good lessons and apply them immediately. For example, Rumsfeld said he was "sure" and "positive" that out of this we're going to end up finding ways to reduce friendly fire casualties."
The secretary also said that some aspects of the war confirmed other transformational thoughts. He has directed the chairman to examine ways to reconfigure active, Guard and reserve manning in areas like civil affairs. He said much of that capability is in the reserve components. Some of that capability needs to shift to the active force, he noted, "or else you're going to call people up every other year, which isn't really what they sign up for."
Myers said he wished he could say that the war is winding down. "But I can't. A lot more work remains in Iraq and around the world. We still have troops in Afghanistan facing danger every day, and in other countries as we fight this war on terrorism."
Looking at Iraq's neighbor, Myers said Syria needs to be more cooperative. "You want people in the neighborhood to be helpful," he said. "And to be helpful you can't be imposing an external influence, trying to work your own agenda."
Myers said that Syria is definitely harboring some of the families of Saddam's senior leaders and possibly some leaders themselves. He said Syria has sent in jihadists to fight against the U.S.-led coalition and sent equipment in for Iraqi forces. "That sort of behavior simply has to stop," he said.
Myers said there are still those who hate America and the values it stands for. Those enemies will use terrorism to attack America and Americans, he observed.
"So, for those of you still out there still wearing your Kevlar, still aboard ships -- for that matter, for us here at home I think our challenge is this: We have to always be prepared, we've got to stay true to the values that got us to this point and we've got to keep our guard up."