COMMANDING OFFICER TIMOTHY WILKE: Good afternoon. As you know, it's our honor and privilege today to have Secretary of Defense Secretary Hagel on board. It's a very important day for us on his visit out here. He took some time out of his day to come talk to us and talk to Freedom.
And without further ado, Secretary Hagel.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Captain Wilke, thank you. And to each of you, thank you for the opportunity to come bother you this afternoon. I know you've got real work to do, but I wanted to say hello. I wanted to tell you how much we appreciate your good work.
You all are making history out here. I think you know that. What you represent to our country and our partnerships in the Asia Pacific -- I don't think can be overstated. You are really defining a new era -- a new era of partnerships -- new ship, new capacities, new opportunities.
You each were assigned to this ship because you have had records of accomplishment. And it's a big deal for our country; it's a big deal for you. I want to also thank your families for what you're doing. And thank your families when you talk with them. Tell them how much we appreciate what they're doing for our country.
I had an opportunity to be out here actually when this was being built over the years, and I watched -- as I was here three years in a row, starting in about 2002 -- how all of this was being put together, brought together, the leadership, the cooperation.
And at the beginning of that effort -- I don't know if anyone not only would have recognized but would have predicted what this was all going to be about, and eventually how we were going to put the first new combat ship out here that represented so much, and so much new capacity.
So I wanted to just, again, thank you and tell you we're grateful, and also tell you how proud we are of what you're doing out here. You all are really ambassadors in every way, and there are high expectations for you, and I think you know that. But, you're up to it, and it's an honor to be on your ship, and I look forward to meeting each of you individually as I get through this this afternoon.