Pace Returns From Trip to Meet, Thank U.S. Troops
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2007 Marine Gen. Peter Pace is back in the nation’s capital after traveling around the world to shake hands with American servicemembers doing the nation’s business.
U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Republic of Korea Gen. Kim Kwan-jin, his South Korean counterpart, salute during a ceremony at the Republic of Korea Ministry of Defense in Seoul, Korea, Aug. 16, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff returned from the trip to Djibouti, Korea, Japan and Hawaii early today.
In the course of this trip and one last month to Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany, the chairman and his senior enlisted advisor, Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, personally spoke and shook hands with more than 20,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Defense Department civilians and their families. In addition, Pace received crucial briefings from military leaders in all those areas.
“The best part of the trip was just to hug the troops and say thanks,” Pace said on the flight home.
Pace said he wanted the troops to understand how their service helps further American interests around the world.
“What’s important for those folks to understand is that if they are not in combat right now, what they are doing where they are is important, also,” he said. “The peace and stability in the Pacific region and the peace and stability of the Horn of Africa are all facilitated by the sacrifices of these guys.”
The chairman hands out his personal coin during many of these events. In most places, the servicemembers thank the chairman and move along. In Djibouti, the servicemembers made a point to thank him “for coming way out here.” Servicemembers said they often feel forgotten in the Horn of Africa.
“People based in Djibouti need to understand that what they are doing is exactly what our country needs them to do to prevent another Iraq or another Afghanistan,” Pace said.
The servicemembers in these regions do not get a lot of headlines, and they should be proud of that fact, the chairman said. “The fact that they are not in the headlines means their part of this is going very well,” he said.
Pace came to the Joint Chiefs as vice chairman in 2001. He rose to become chairman two years ago. He said that over the past six years, the quality of the force has improved. He said the troops clearly execute their primary missions in the war on terrorism better than in the past.
“Working as long and as hard as we have on the mission, we’ve gotten better at that,” he said. “But the focus and the determination of the troops after six years has been honed by the war effort. The part that most impresses me is how resilient the force is and how strengthened and focused it appears to me to become in the time I’ve been vice chairman and chairman.”
The chairman left Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 13 and with a refueling stop in Rota, Spain flew to Djibouti. He met with leaders of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa and spoke with servicemembers at the “Thunderdome” at Camp Lemonier.
He left Aug. 15 and flew to Osan Air Base, South Korea, arriving in the middle of the night. The next morning, he spoke with troops based at Osan and at Hunsan Air Base at the Black Cats hangar at Osan. He then flew to Yongsan in Seoul, where he met with thousands of troops from U.S. Forces Korea.
He next moved to the Blue House, where South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun presented him with the Order of National Security Merit Tongil Medal.
After meetings with South Korean and U.S. officials, Pace returned to Osan for an early morning departure for Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Pace met with U.S. Forces Japan commander Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, and then moved to the base theater for a town hall meeting with servicemembers. He flew to Tokyo, where Defense Minister Yuriko Koike presented the general with the Grand Cordon of the Rising Sun, an award approved and signed by Emperor Akihito.
Pace met with his Japanese counterpart and then boarded his aircraft for Hawaii. Crossing the International Date Line meant the chairman had two Fridays. He arrived in Hawaii and immediately went into a town hall meeting at Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay. He next moved to Pearl Harbo,r where he held another town hall meeting with personnel at the submarine base there.
Pace and his party moved to Tripler Army Medical Center and visited with soldiers recovering from wounds suffered in the war on terror. Yesterday, the chairman and his party left Hawaii for the flight back to Washington.