Thank you, General McNabb, for the introduction, and thanks to Congressman Costello and all our distinguished guests for joining us. I asked General Petraeus to join me today, as it is the men and women of Central Command who have benefited so especially and so critically from the work done.
I am glad to get the chance to be here today, and to have the opportunity to present the Joint Meritorious Unit Award to the men and women of the United States Transportation Command. You should know that this award is the first and only award that I have personally initiated in my three plus years as Secretary of Defense. Although your contributions have largely been unheralded, without your ceaseless and often heroic efforts our missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and, indeed, around the world would grind to a halt.
Before I get into the specifics of your achievements, I want to say two things. What TRANSCOM, its components, and commercial partners have accomplished in the last three years – in terms of tonnage, complexity, duration, and degree of difficulty – will be remembered and taught for a very long time. Second, as the weight shifts from Iraq to Afghanistan, a landlocked rugged country with no decent roads or ports, TRANSCOM’s mission will only become more challenging, transformative, and strategically significant.
Your accomplishments are truly global in scope and scale. Over the past three years, TRANSCOM organizations have delivered more than 5 billion gallons of fuel, moved more than 8.5 million short tons of cargo, and carried 5 million passengers. To give you some kind of perspective, that means that your teams moved the populations of Chicago and Houston with room to spare for Buffalo.
But these figures only tell a part of the tale. I have said many times that one of our most sacred obligations is to our wounded warriors. Working with Central Command, TRANSCOM has evacuated more than 25,000 patients to follow-on care from the theater. From the unit medics, to the aircrews of the evacuation flights, to the seamless support provided by the patient movement centers, our wounded troops are receiving the finest, and fastest, military medical care known in history. You are saving lives.
As you know, one of my top acquisition priorities was the mine resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP) and the smaller all terrain models specifically designed for Afghanistan. TRANSCOM expedited them to the people that needed them most – in all, some 17,000 MRAPS and M-ATVs. You’ve also delivered more than 53,000 humvee armor kits. These improvements and these vehicles are having a direct effect on the battlefield and are ensuring that more of our military men and women come home safely.
TRANSCOM's support of the Afghanistan campaign includes moving supplies through the Northern Distribution Network, a complex effort that involves working with the State Department and two other CoComs. And as General McNabb just informed me, as of today some 10,000 containers have moved and are moving through Central Asia and the Caucasus into the Afghan theater, and at this point I want to congratulate the Northern Distribution Network team for receiving the department's Supply Chain Award, another well deserved recognition.
TRANSCOM's lifesaving work extends beyond the battlefield. Less than two weeks after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, TRANSCOM deployed over 6,000 personnel to the area and evacuated over 10,000 Haitians from the island. Over the subsequent weeks, Air Mobility Command, Surface Distribution and Deployment Command, and Military Sealift Command assets provided more than 400,000 tons of cargo, 2.5 million meals, and 5 million liters of water.
In closing, I want to thank each of you for all you do every single day. On behalf of everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan who has had clean drinking water or a meal, has had their wounds treated, or has made it through an IED attack in one piece, job well done. Your pride is extraordinarily justified. The President and I, all who are engaged in these conflicts, and all Americans admire what you have done, are doing, and will do. You are quite literally, the life line.