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Cheney Thanks Sailors, Marines at Norfolk Rally

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 10, 2006 – Vice President Richard B. Cheney thanked sailors and Marines during a July 7 rally aboard the USS Wasp for serving in uniform during a period of national challenge, military transformation and unprecedented threats.

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Vice President Dick Cheney waves to sailors and Marines during a rally aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., July 7. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Davis J. Anderson, USN

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

"We have asked a great deal of you. You've answered the call with tremendous reliability and skill," Cheney told members of Expeditionary Strike Group 8 and other sailors at Naval Station Norfolk, Va. "And I've come here today to say thank you to all of you for what you've done for all of us on behalf of the United States."

The audience included sailors from USS Nassau, USS Cape St. George, USS Austin, USS Winston S. Churchill, USS Carter Hall and USS Norfolk, and Marines from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. Joining them were members of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, with sailors from USS Donald Cook, USS Oscar Austin, USS Annapolis, USNS Mount Baker, USNS Kanawha and USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Expeditionary Strike Group 8 recently returned from a six-month deployment across the Atlantic Ocean, to the Mediterranean Sea, Suez Canal and Red Sea, around the Horn of Africa, and across to the Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, Cheney said.

"You went into the deployment with the finest training and equipment our nation can provide," he said. "You did the job well and won the admiration of your fellow citizens."

Cheney also praised Marines of the 22nd MEU, who he said have been the "tip of the spear" in fighting terrorists in Iraq. "In the fight against freedom's enemies, you've been brave and utterly relentless in combat," he said.

As the military transforms to become a lighter and more adaptable, agile and lethal force, it is important to keep an eye on military fundamentals, he said.

"One of those is sea power. Naval operations are every bit as important, if not more so, than they were in the last century," he said. "Nothing takes the place of a convoy, able to enter any ocean, project great force from over the horizon, keep terrorists from disrupting the sea lanes or using them to transport operatives or weapons."

Cheney said sea power provided the capability to take down the Taliban in Afghanistan and remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. He also called sea power a vital component in fighting the asymmetrical war against terrorism.

"This war is unlike any we've ever known," he said. "In the case of the terror network, we are not dealing with large armies we can track, or uniforms we can see, or men having territory of their own to defend. Instead, these enemies are hidden, diffuse (and) secretive in their movements and asymmetrical in their tactics."

Cheney called Iraq the central front of the war on terror and said the goal there is to establish a democratic country that can defend itself. "Our strategy in Iraq is clear, and our tactics remain flexible," he said. "Iraq today has the most progressive constitution and the strongest democratic mandate in the entire Arab world."

Coalition forces in Iraq have put great effort into standing up the Iraqi security forces, he said.

"At present, more than a quarter of a million trained and equipped Iraqi forces are in the fight on behalf of the Iraqi people," he said. "As those forces gain strength and experience, and as the political process advances, we'll be able to bring down our troop levels."

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