Deputy Secretary Surprises Fort Campbell Troops
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., Oct. 28, 2002 Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz paid a surprise visit to the soldiers of the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) division and of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment here.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (center right) eats breakfast with combat vets Oct. 28, 2002,during his visit with soldiers from the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky. Photo by Jim Garamone.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Wolfowitz said he just wanted to tell them how much the DoD leadership values their sacrifices, competence and courage.
Wolfowitz had breakfast with troops at a consolidated dining facility on post. He said they told him of their experiences in Operation Anaconda during their deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom. He said the 101st stand during that operation helped demoralize the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.
The al Qaeda were well-supplied and had state-of-the-art gear, said division NCOs during the talk with Wolfowitz. U.S. troops said they changed their tactics in the reality of conflict as often as the Taliban changed theirs.
Wolfowitz told the soldiers that he came to the base to learn how the soldiers did what they did during the operation and to thank them. "It was a remarkable accomplishment," the deputy told the men and women.
"It was even more remarkable because there were so few of you. Maybe that's why you succeeded and the English and Soviets who went into the country with hundreds of thousands weren't."
The deputy said because there were so few of the soldiers "every one of you must be good."
The soldiers told the deputy secretary about conditions in Afghanistan and spoke of language and communications problems, and moves the enemy made to counter the U.S. advantage.
Wolfowitz also spoke with the special operators of the 160th aviation regiment. The soldiers, known as the "Nightstalkers," told the secretary of the long missions to insert Special Forces A Teams into Afghanistan. Leaders of the regiment told him that many of the missions were flown in bad weather, at night and with mountains looming over them as high as 22,000 feet.
After the visit, Wolfowitz noted that these units had gone up against organizations the Taliban and al Qaeda that were fighting in their home and had fully expected to give the United States severe casualties. "They knew for a couple of days that we were coming (to the area of Anaconda) and they didn't leave," he said. "When the Soviets invaded, the area was a killing zone, and they thought it would be (the same) for us.
Wolfowitz said the U.S. resolve had to be demoralizing for the Taliban and al Qaeda.