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President Praises Servicemembers at Charleston Air Force Base

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2006 – President Bush lauded “Team Charleston” during a visit to Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., today.

“I am proud to be the commander in chief of such a fine group of young men and women,” Bush told a gathering of troops and their families. “We have an amazing nation when people say, ‘I want to volunteer to defend this country.’”

Bush specifically commended the 315th and 437th Air Wings on their accomplishments and contributions since Sept. 11.

He noted that Charleston airmen have launched more than 14,000 C-17 missions and airlifted more cargo to Operation Iraqi Freedom than any other unit since the terrorist attacks. Special operations forces’ only strategic airlift also comes from Charleston Air Force Base, Bush said.

“The men and women here in Charleston have also done more than just provided supply to the war zones,” he said. “You have provided humanitarian aid that has saved countless lives.”

That humanitarian aid totaled 2.4 million rations to the people of Afghanistan at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom and 53,000 pounds of relief supplies to tsunami victims in Indonesia. When Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, units at Charleston Air Force Base dropped 2.5 million pounds of relief supplies and evacuated 2,400 people from New Orleans, Bush said.

“And now you’re involved in this global war on terror in the central front, which is Iraq,” Bush said. “And it’s tough fighting, because the enemy understands the stakes of a free Iraq.”

The enemy knows no boundaries and has no conscience, he said. Terrorists’ stated objective is to eliminate the United States so they can spread their ideology and dominate a society in which “people could not worship freely, in which people who did not adhere to their point of view would be punished.”

“And 20 or 30 years from now, if that were to happen, people would look back and say, ‘What happened to them in 2006? How come they couldn’t see the threats to a generation of Americans?’” Bush said. “I’m proud to be with people who see the threats and know that the best way to protect the American people is to defeat the enemy overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.”

In helping the United States keep the enemy overseas, the military must remain flexible in dealing with the enemy on the ground, he said. Iraqis, who Bush noted have suffered unbelievable loss, also are standing firm with the U.S. military.

“I thank you for being a part of this noble and just and important cause,” he said. “The time of war is a time of sacrifice, (and) I know the sacrifices you all make. But some have paid the ultimate price; really good men and women have lost their lives in this struggle.

“I make this pledge: We will honor their sacrifice by completing the mission, by defeating the terrorists and by laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.”

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