Obama Pledges Support to Servicemembers, Families
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 15, 2010 President Barack Obama opened his talk today at Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla., praising the military for its role in the oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico, then launched into a rousing address, promising to be judicious in how he uses military power and to provide the military what it needs to succeed.Video
Obama, visiting Pensacola after assessing progress in the oil response, made an important promise to an assembly of sailors, airmen, soldiers, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
“I will not hesitate to use force to protect the American people or our vital interests,” he said. “But I will also never risk your lives unless it's absolutely necessary. And if it is necessary, we are going to back you up to the hilt with the strategy and the clear mission and the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done right.”
That includes ensuring the proper strategy and support for the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama said. He noted that the combat mission in Iraq is on schedule to end this summer, as U.S. forces press forward in Afghanistan.
“We're working to break the momentum of the Taliban insurgency and train Afghan security forces, strengthen the capacity of the Afghan government and protect the Afghan people,” he said.
“We will disrupt and dismantle and ultimately defeat al-Qaida and its terrorist affiliates,” he continued. “And we will support the aspirations of people around the world as they seek progress and opportunity and prosperity, because that's what we do as Americans.”
Obama pledged that the U.S. military will have the training and equipment it needs to succeed in missions it’s asked to carry out. “We're going to keep you the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military that the world has ever known,” he said.
That’s why the military has halted personnel reductions in the Navy and increased the size of the Marine Corps, and why it continues investing in new capabilities and technologies for the future, he said.
“But the most important thing in our military is our people,” the president said, pledging support for wounded warriors, particularly those suffering from post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, and to keep faith with military families.
“When a loved one goes to war, that family goes to war,” Obama said. “That's why we're working to improve family readiness and increase pay and benefits, working to give you more time between deployments, increasing support to help spouses and families deal with the stresses and the separation of war.”
The president reiterated First Lady Michelle Obama’s challenge to every sector of American society to support military families.
“This can't be the work of government alone,” he said. “As Michelle's been saying, 1 percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but 100 percent of Americans need to be supporting our men and women and their families in uniform. You guys shouldn't be carrying the entire burden.”
Obama praised the men and women in uniform who willingly agreed to carry this burden for their country. “Our nation is at war,” he said. “And all of you have stepped forward. You volunteered. You took an oath. You stood tall and you said, ‘I will serve.’”
The president said he’s proud of the resolve, determination and resilience the nation is demonstrating in the face of the Gulf oil spill disaster – qualities he said the military has demonstrated throughout U.S. history.
“That’s the same spirit we see in all of you – the men and women in uniform – the spirit we’ll need to meet other challenges of our time,” he said.