Keating Praises Micronesia’s Partnership in Promoting Stability
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
PALIKIR, Micronesia, Apr. 8, 2008 Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating’s visit here today turned personal when, after praising Micronesia as a partner in promoting regional security, he got to personally thank a local soldier severely wounded while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq.
Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, presents a pen set as a token of appreciation to Hilario Bermanis II, during the admiral’s visit to Micronesia April 8, 2008. Bermanis, a Micronesian, lost two legs and an arm while serving with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq. Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Elisia Gonzales
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, noted the close, longstanding security ties the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia share during a news conference with Micronesian President Emanuel Mori.
The strength of the two countries’ friendship is important to U.S. Pacific Command, Keating told Mori. “It is this sort of relationship, which woven together, forms a very, very tight fabric of peace and stability all throughout this vast part of the world for which we are responsible,” he said.
Mori emphasized to reporters the “very strong, very unique, very friendly relationship” between the two countries. This relationship enables the Micronesian people to sleep comfortably at night, recognizing the peace and security this relationship brings, he said.
Following “fruitful discussions” with Mori and representatives of the Foreign Affairs and Justice ministries, Keating also called on Speaker of the Congress Isaac Figir and other congressional leaders.
The admiral noted the contributions young Micronesians make to the U.S. armed forces, serving at about twice the per capita rate as their American counterparts. Keating noted that Mori’s daughter serves in the Air Force and Vice President Alik Alik’s son is in the Army, and that their parents are “justifiably proud” of their children’s service.
“We are immensely grateful for their commitment to those things that some folks take for granted,” Keating told Mori, adding, “You, sir, obviously do not.”
PaCom is proud of its military members who stand “ready to do what needs to be done to ensure our peace and stability and security,” providing a source of a comfort to the region, Keating said.
But that service isn’t without a price, he recognized. “We know firsthand the sacrifice required of our young men and women in uniform,” he said.
Keating got an opportunity to personally thank Hilario Bermanis II, a Micronesian who exemplifies the cost of military service. Bermanis and a fellow 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper were guarding a weapons cache in Baghdad in June 2003 they were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades. Bermanis lost both legs and his left arm. His comrade was killed instantly.
After being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, Bermanis, now a U.S. citizen, is finishing his rehabilitation here on his home island of Pohnpei.
Bermanis told Keating he joined the U.S. military because he wanted to play a part in promoting peace in the world, knowing its effect on his own Pacific region.
Emotionally moved by his meeting with Bermanis, his father and brother, Keating said he felt honored to look them in the eye and thank them for their family’s contributions.
“They’ve paid a catastrophic price, but they’re proud of their service and what they’ve contributed,” he said. “What we have isn’t a coalition of the willing. It’s a coalition of the committed.”
Keating assured Mori of the United States’ unwavering commitment to Micronesia.
He noted the upcoming USNS Mercy hospital ship visit to Micronesia as part of Pacific Partnership 2008. Hundreds of medical and dental professionals, some in the military and some civilian volunteers, will provide medical care for those either too far away from the care they need or unable to afford it, he said.
An upcoming joint committee meeting between PaCom and senior Micronesian officials will address other issues of mutual interest and build on Keating’s discussions here. Among topics on the agenda will be plans to stand up a transnational crime unit here later this month. PaCom’s Joint Interagency Task Force West is joining Australia in lending support toward that effort, aimed at stemming the flow of drugs, particularly methamphetamine, in the region.
Keating reassured Mori that Micronesia can depend on its longstanding friendship with the United States. “Should you need help, regardless of the size, regardless of the time, regardless of the technical nature, if the United States Pacific Command can assist, we will,” he said.
“We will be here as soon as you ask for the assistance, whether it’s day or night, humanitarian assistance or something requiring even higher military capability,” he said. “It will be our distinct privilege to provide that service when we can.”
Today’s visit was Keating’s first to Micronesia, a nation of 607 islands stretching across an 1,800-mile-long archipelago, since he took command in March 2007.