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Pace Thanks Australians, Seeks Closer Ties

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

CANBERRA, Australia, Feb. 12, 2007 – The top U.S. general today thanked Australia for “decades of friendship between our two countries” and paid his respects to Australian military personnel during a visit Down Under.

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Marine Gen. Peter Pace (right), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reviews the Australian honor guard and band at the Defense ministry in Canberra, Australia, Feb. 12. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Sydney on Feb. 10 and had a full schedule of meetings with military and civilian leaders there and here in the Australian capital. Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, chief of the Australian Defense Force, hosted Pace.

Houston said he was pleased to host Pace. “I’m absolutely delighted to have General Pace here,” Houston said during a short interview at the Australian Defense Department. “We’re very close allies. We’re working well together around the world, and it’s imperative that we have these sorts of exchanges to build the understanding and trust in the relationship that has been a feature of it for more than 60 years.”

Pace started yesterday with a visit to the Headquarters Joint Operations Command in Sydney. The headquarters is akin to an American joint task force with responsibility for worldwide operations. “(The headquarters) is very efficient, very effective,” Pace said.

While there, he also received a comprehensive briefing from the commander of Australian special operations. “The Aussie special ops folks are really world-class,” Pace said. “Our guys are really pleased to work alongside them.”

He spoke with Australian military leaders about operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and about operations Australians are leading in the Pacific, such as in East Timor and the Solomon Islands.

Pace and Houston flew here today for meetings with civilian Australian leaders. The chairman met with Defense Minister Brendan Nelson and Prime Minister John Howard. The meetings were constructive and indicative of the closeness of the alliance between the two countries, a senior U.S. military official who attended the meetings said.

The Australians welcomed Pace officially at a ceremony in Blamey Square at the defense complex. As the general “trooped the line,” he stopped and spoke to soldiers, sailors and airmen who were members of the ceremonial unit. He also placed a wreath at Australia’s Tomb of the Unknown at the Australian War Memorial here.

Pace said the meetings helped him understand this important U.S. ally better. He added that this will help the two countries become better partners in ongoing operations. “I wanted to find out how we might be able to partner (with the Australians) better,” Pace said.

The general said that he wanted ground truth on whether any U.S. laws or rules served as an impediment to U.S.-Australian interoperability. “I was very pleased to find out that, for the most part, most of things being in the way of being able to share intelligence or information are either overcome or are being overcome,” Pace said.

“The thing you always get out of these meetings is a greater understanding of our joint endeavors,” Houston said. “We talked extensively about Iraq, Afghanistan and some of the other areas around the world where we are being challenged by forces that stand for something completely opposite to what we believe in.

“We believe in a free and democratic world, a world where people can pursue their own interests in a free and open way,” Houston continued. “I think we share the same value set, and we stand against the people who want to change that.”

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Gen. Peter Pace, USMC
Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston

Related Sites:
State Department Background Note on Australia

Related Articles:
Pace to Visit Australia, Indonesia

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Chief Marshal Angus Houston (left), chairman of the Australian Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with his U.S. counterpart, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, while flying from Sydney to Canberra, Australia, Feb. 12. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, conducts a news conference in Canberra, Australia, Feb. 12. Photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, USAF  
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