Q: Good Morning.
A: Nice to see you all.
Q: So, how do you like Yuma so far?
A: I love it! It’s a wonderful spot. We flew in over it and had a chance to see it from the air and have been here visiting with the troops and answer some questions and tell them how much we appreciate their service to the country. I must say, one of the things I have heard since I’ve been here is that this community is enormously hospitable to our troops. They feel welcome here and supported and that’s a wonderful thing. When we have people doing such important work for our country, it’s important that they be in locations where they feel wanted, and they’re respected and where they’re supported.
Q: And I’m sure you can certainly agree that they are wanted here, which brings us to kind of another issue: base realignment. You’re going to be talking to, I understand, the Governor today a little bit. Anything you can tell us about that?
A: No. [Laughter]. The statute, the law is such that I am not supposed to get involved in that until a commission has been appointed, and I am sure it will all be done well and professionally and transparently. The one thing I would say is that we have been working to look at our global footprint and make adjustments outside the United States in ways that would bring a number of our forces back to the United States with their dependents, and therefore the so called ‘BRAC’ process, the base realignment process very likely will benefit from having additional U.S. forces coming here from other parts of the globe that were kind of still in place after the Cold War ended.
Q: And in talking about that realignment process to bring troops home from Europe, we know that the Department of the Army is looking at possibly looking at putting some of those guys at the Yuma Proving Ground. What are you hearing about that?
A: I don’t speculate. I wait until the commission is appointed and they come in with their recommendations and then I have a chance to look at it. What I have been deeply involved in is the rearrangements around the world, but within the United States, that has to be done according to the statute.
Q: I’m curious to know what you see as far as more deployments happening in Iraq? Do you see that as a continuation?
A: Well, the president has said, and the Coalition has agreed, that what we ought to do is we ought to have our folks there helping out while they are needed and not any longer than they are needed. And we now have hit some important benchmarks. We have, for one thing, first had an Iraqi Governing Council, and now there is an Iraqi Interim Government. They have their Prime Minister and their ministries and so forth. They just elected a constituent assembly and they will be moving towards elections in January. While this is all going on we have been training and equipping Iraqi forces from zero up to, now, 110 that are fully trained and equipped -- 110 thousand -- and 210 thousand that are partially trained and equipped. Now, the task is to get them trained and organized with a chain of command so that they can take over the responsibilities for security in that country. While that is going on we will continue to rotate forces in and out, the Coalition will, the United States will, and as those Iraqi forces are able to take over more and more responsibility, clearly, there will be a need for less and less of the Coalition forces.
Q: What was the message that you wanted to bring to these Marines and Sailors today?
A: It was to say ‘thank you.’ You just have no idea how important what they are doing is in the world. It is difficult work. It is challenging, and it’s dangerous. And they are doing it so well, and so professionally, and so courageously that it is important from time to time for people -- not just people in government – but people outside of government, to be able to look them in the eye and say thank you -- that we value them. We value the fact that they are all volunteers. That they put their hands up and said ‘send me.’ And that’s a wonderful thing that our country has their service.
X: That’s going to have to be the last question.
A: See ya, folks.
Q: Thank you, Sir.