Wolfowitz Praises Sailors, Inspects New Army Helicopter
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Nov. 16, 2002 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz flew to the Sunshine State Nov. 15, first meeting with sailors at Naval Station Mayport here, then traveling further south to see the Army's newest helicopter.
After touring facilities at the base, including a subchaser aviation unit, Wolfowitz was piped aboard the USS Gettysburg, a guided missile cruiser that had fired its Tomahawk missiles at Iraqi targets during Operation Desert Fox in 1998.
The deputy defense secretary toured the ship and then had lunch with a group of Gettysburg sailors. He noted to them that Saddam Hussein "isn't going to give up (his weapons of mass destruction) easily," even though the Iraqi dictator recently agreed to do just that.
On Nov. 13, the Iraqis said they would comply with U.N. Resolution 1441 and allow a new group of inspectors unfettered access to facilities suspected of producing or developing chemical, biological and nuclear WMDs.
Wolfowitz praised the sailors for their service, noting that the only thing that will change Hussein's attitude and compel him to finally give up his WMDs is the threat of intervention by military force.
"He's not going to do it just because there's another (U.N.) resolution. He's going to do it because of the real threat behind it," the deputy defense secretary remarked.
Departing the Gettysburg, Wolfowitz met with reporters at the pier. He said he was "enormously" impressed with how well sailors cope with the stresses of deployments and living aboard ship in confined spaces. It is "a lift," he said, "to meet these young men and women and see their pride in the work they do."
He also commented on the high amount of complicated, high-tech equipment aboard the Gettysburg and marveled at the skills of the crew. The average age of the 400-member, mixed-gender crew is just under 20.
"It's just amazing how much these young people learn and master and the incredible teamwork that goes into running one of these ships," he noted.
Wolfowitz said he told the Gettysburg's crew America appreciates what its men and women in uniform are doing now, adding that the president and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld are also deeply grateful for service member's efforts in the war against global terrorism.
The deputy defense secretary said the war will be a long one, and that dealing with Iraq and eliminating that country's WMDs is part of that war on terrorism.
"We're going to have to remain strong, militarily, for the indefinite future," Wolfowitz emphasized. "But, also, I think our experience just in the past year is a demonstration that military strength in the 21st century is built on different things than it was in the last century."
To get a look at a component of the future U.S. military, Wolfowitz departed Mayport, flying south to West Palm Beach International Airport, where he visited the Sikorsky and Boeing test facility for the Army's RAH-66 Comanche helicopter.
He watched the dragonfly-like aircraft perform aerial maneuvers, attended a briefing, got "stick time" in a simulator and also sat in the cockpit of a real Comanche.
The Comanche, an agile reconnaissance aircraft that boasts a bevy of high-tech communications and other gadgetry, is slated for fielding in 2009.
"The Army absolutely has to have this sort of (communications) networking capability to be the centerpiece of the Future Combat System," said Comanche program manager Col. Robert Birmingham.
If the Army buys 650 Comanches, Birmingham noted that they'd cost about $32 million each. However, he emphasized, the Comanche is a lot of helicopter that's needed as soon as possible.
The Comanche's predecessor, OH-58 Kiowa Warrior, was a great aircraft for the '80s and the '90s, he said, but it's now obsolete.
"The Kiowa Warrior cannot keep up with the attack and reconnaissance missions we've got right now," he concluded.