Rice, Australian Foreign Minister Visit California Marines
By Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., May 24, 2007 Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Marines here yesterday with a message of thanks from the president and the American people.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to Marines at Camp Pendleton’s air station in California, May 23. Marines and sailors from 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton have been key contributors to the global war on terrorism. Photo by Lance Cpl. Jerry Murphy, USMC
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Rice said to a gathering of Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton. Alexander Downer, Australia’s minister for foreign affairs, joined Rice in the visit.
Rice thanked Marines and sailors for their service and sacrifice in the global war on terror. Marines from Camp Pendleton have deployed multiple times to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The American people support and appreciate and tremendously admire what’s being done by our uniformed men and women around the world,” Rice said in a brief interview. “The defense of freedom is the defense of America’s security.”
Rice and Downer spoke briefly with Marines and sailors before moving to an urban-warfare training facility. There, they witnessed Marines training in a mock city, practicing skills that could be critical during upcoming deployments to Iraq.
Rice said she was impressed by Marines’ actions during the training exercise, saying it showed their determination to accomplish their mission.
“It was a tremendous demonstration of skill,” she said. “It was very professional.”
Downer echoed the sentiment, stating he was impressed in particular with the care and consideration Marines showed toward noncombatants and those who may fall victim to insurgent aggression.
“There is a lot of sensitivity to human rights,” Downer said. “I was impressed with their compassion.”
Rice said the trip to visit Marines and sailors at Camp Pendleton with Downer was poignant because, just as U.S. Marines have answered the nation’s call, Australia has answered the call to stand against global terrorism.
“Whenever we’ve had to defend freedom, Australia has been by our side,” Rice added.
“We had people in the buildings on 9/11,” Downer said. “We’ve had people killed in Bali and people killed in London. Our response is to go after them.
“Somebody has to go after these people, and Americans shouldn’t do it alone,” he added. “Our determination knows no bounds.”
Downer said he and his fellow Australians were deeply grateful to U.S. Marines and sailors for leading the charge against terror.
“I’d like to thank them for the sacrifice they’re making around the world” he said.
“We’re proud of what you’re doing,” Rice said. “The devotion to our country is something I always take away.”
(Marine Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva is the public affairs chief for the 1st Marine Division.)