Service Members Pledge Support for Anti-Terror War
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2002 Sailors and Marines in San Diego and nearby Camp Pendleton were glad to see Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during his recent California visit and are proud to serve their country in the war against global terrorism.
The secretary visited Aug. 26-27 to thank service members for their support. After watching soldiers train at Fort Irwin's National Training Center early Aug. 26, Rumsfeld flew to San Diego for an afternoon briefing about new military equipment being developed by the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center.
The next morning at Naval Station San Diego, Rumsfeld was piped aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard for an all-hands meeting. The amphibious assault ship has a crew of 1,200 sailors and 1,500 Marines and returned to home port in mid- June from a cruise supporting military operations in Afghanistan.
Just before Rumsfeld spoke, cryptologist Petty Officer 3rd class Allen Carpenter, 23, remarked, "It's awesome, it's great" to see the secretary in person and adding the visit was also an honor for the ship.
It was a long deployment that had some tense moments, Carpenter allowed. The Bonhomme Richard left San Diego in December 2001. However, noted the native of McMinnville, Ore., he and his shipmates did their duty with no problems.
"Mission accomplished," Carpenter, a three-year Navy veteran, pointed out.
The Bonhomme Richard's deployment to the Arabian Sea was indeed "rough, hard work with lots of military operations," said Seaman Melanie Moss, 21, a ship's painter with three years in the Navy.
The Los Angeles native explained that her military service "makes me feel like I'm doing something in return" for the country as part of her citizenship. Moss emphasized that U.S. military operations against al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban supporters in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America are justified.
"I'm glad we're fighting back," she said.
Petty Officer 3rd class Paul Dillon, 26, said he just recently reported for duty and missed the Arabian Sea deployment. Dillon, who hails from New Orleans, said he fully supports the war, noting, "It's necessary to stop (the terrorists), to get our point across."
Later, at Camp Pendleton, a sprawling 125,000-acre base about 40 miles north of San Diego, Rumsfeld held a "town hall" to meet and thank the Marines. Although America and her allies have kicked al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban supporters out of power in Afghanistan, he noted, the conflict is a global endeavor that is far from over.
At the end of Rumsfeld's visit, Marine Lance Cpls. Ralph Mancilla, 22, and Frederick Truong, 20, agreed with the secretary, noting the war against global terrorists would take years to resolve.
Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are in deep hiding, embedded in cells around the world, said Mancilla, a Los Angeles native. "It'll take time to root them all out," he pointed out.
The Marine Corps, however, "is up to the challenge," said Truong, a native of Garden Grove, Calif.
"That's why we joined," he and Mancilla emphasized in unison.