SEC. GATES: First of all, let me apologize to you all for that 45-minute wait. We had a false start at Bagram, and had to put a little duct tape on the airplane or something. The main purpose here is not to give you a speech, but to have the opportunity to thank each of you individually for your service and for being here.
You’ve all volunteered in a time of war. We know you’re in a tough fight. As is usual with the Marines, they give you some of the roughest real estate and the toughest fight. The kind of thing that you all do in supporting the combat forces, logistics and maintenance, getting the roads through, providing fuel, supplies, power, taking care of things and equipment so it works in the fight is critically important to the successes that we’re enjoying.
I know that being away from your families at this time of year is especially hard. And so I just want to ask you, the next time you’re in touch with them with them through e-mail or however you communicate to thank them personally from me for their support to you, and for helping us make the success that we have here in the south.
You are making a difference. The Marines, since arriving last -- a year ago last summer, have really been in the fight, and I think have not just reversed the momentum of the -- stopped the momentum of the Taliban, but in a lot of places reversed it as well.
So I’m feeling that we’re on the right track, and we just have to stick to it. And as the president said when he was here in Afghanistan a few days ago, under those circumstances, I, too, am confident that we’ll prevail. I just would add that on a personal note I’m the person who signed the orders that sent you here. And I feel a personal sense of responsibility for each one of you. And ever since I took this job four years ago, I’ve considered it my responsibility to get the troops here,what you need to accomplish your job, accomplish your mission, and come home safely. And anything that I can do to help, I will.
And that’s about all I have to say, because the most important part of this is getting you all lined up and giving each of you a handshake and a thank you and a coin and a photograph. And so we’ll proceed to that, unless there’s somebody, some brave, intrepid soul that has a question that he or she just has to ask. And I’m giving you that opportunity.
I see that you’re all discreet enough not to waste your fellow Marines’ time, so let’s get on with the photos and the coin presentations. But, again, let me just underscore how much I thank you, and how much the American people appreciate and support what you’re doing here, and how much they care about you and about your families.
So with that, let’s get on with business.