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Rumsfeld Praises Sailors, Marines in San Diego, Camp Pendleton

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 27, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today received thunderous cheers from thousands of sailors and Marines here and at Camp Pendleton as he thanked them for their efforts in the global war on terrorism.

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld shakes a sailor's hand Aug. 27, 2002, during an all-hands meeting aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Station San Diego. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.

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The secretary was rounding out a two-day trip to California to visit service members when he was piped aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard at Naval Station San Diego, headquarters of the Navy's surface and air assets in the Pacific, to the cheers of hundreds of service members who welcomed him "home."

Rumsfeld had lived in San Diego as a boy when his father was a World War II naval flier. The secretary, too, was a Navy aviator from 1954-57.

Boasting a crew of 1,200 sailors and 1,500 Marines, the Bonhomme Richard is an amphibious assault ship. It and its crew had returned to port in mid-June from duty in the North Arabian Sea after supporting military operations in Afghanistan.

Eighty Marines deployed from the Bonhomme Richard for duty in Afghanistan, according to Navy officials. The ship, they added, also launched Harrier jets and helicopter gunships for air missions that supported Operation Anaconda coalition ground operations in March.

Rumsfeld happily noted during an all-hands meeting aboard the Bonhomme Richard that the ship had earned a coveted Battlefield Efficiency Award as the best in its class. The crew's efforts, he noted, had helped to rout the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

"You performed difficult work, dangerous work, and you did it, I'm told, with an impressive safety record. For that, I congratulate you," Rumsfeld told the crew.

The secretary noted that the armed services would continue to transform to meet 21st century threats like terrorists. This means, he said, changes in doctrine, changes in training, organization and leadership.

U.S. forces, Rumsfeld added, will become lighter, more deployable, responsive and more lethal. There will also be increased interoperability among the services, "jointness," in the future, he noted.

The secretary praised the sailors and Marines, noting that he was also grateful for the support of service members' families and parents. "I'm here to say thank you for what you do for our country. Thank you very much," he told the assembly.

After the meeting, Rumsfeld toured the aircraft carrier USS Constellation. He then flew by helicopter to Camp Pendleton, about 40 miles north, for a "town meeting" with hundreds of Marines.

Rumsfeld again was welcomed with cheers at Pendleton, home of the I Marine Expeditionary Force. He praised the Marines, noting their legendary fighting ability, which he attributed to excellent training.

"You are trained to be warriors," he remarked. He lauded the Marines' exploits during Operation Enduring Freedom. He noted that Marines, for example, secured the strategic Kandahar airport in Afghanistan and since have successfully performed many other important missions in the war against global terrorism.

America and her coalition partners are winning the war against terrorism, the secretary noted. But, he added, the war isn't over.

Transforming the U.S. military is necessary in confronting 21st century threats like global terrorism, Rumsfeld remarked. The Marines, like the Army, Air Force and Navy, he said, would soon start training to participate in special operations missions, such as the training of friendly countries' military forces.

Addressing a Marine's question about the current situation among "axis of evil" nations, Iraq, Iran and North Korea, Rumsfeld said North Korea's economic difficulties may cause it to simply collapse.

Iran's people, he remarked, are hard-working, intelligent and clamoring for governmental and social reform. Just as religious clerics seized power from the shah in the late 1970s, moderate Iranians today might also quickly assume power in the near future, he noted.

Iraq is a country led by a military dictatorship that is a threat to freedom-loving nations of the world, Rumsfeld said. Although President Bush has decided for a regime change in Iraq, how to achieve that has yet to be determined, Rumsfeld pointed out. Now is the time, the secretary said, for serious national debate about the pros and cons for taking military or other action to unseat Saddam Hussein.

The secretary compared the current situation with Saddam to how Europe wrestled with how to handle Hitler before World War II. Only Winston Churchill, who would become British prime minister during the war, consistently warned the world of the dire threat to peace and freedom the Nazis posed, he said.

"During that period the voices of concern about what Adolf Hitler was doing were very few," Rumsfeld noted, with the majority believing that Hitler was only posturing and would eventually stop his aggressive behavior. Only after Hitler invaded and occupied France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and then attacked England did people think, "Maybe Winston Churchill was right," he said.

The secretary spent Aug. 26, his first day in California, visiting soldiers at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin and then flying to San Diego for a briefing about new military equipment being developed by the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center.

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Related Sites:
DoD News Transcript: Secretary Rumsfeld at Camp Pendleton Town Hall Meeting, Aug. 27, 2002

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Service Members Pledge Support for Anti-Terror War

Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, boasting a crew of 1,200 sailors and 1,500 Marines, returned to its San Diego home port in mid-June after a tour of duty cruising the North Arabian Sea in support of military operations in Afghanistan. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld addresses hundreds of Marines Aug. 27, 2002, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.   
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