Rumsfeld Lauds 'Screaming Eagles' at Kentucky Base
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 14, 2004 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld thanked the "Screaming Eagles" of the Army's storied 101st Airborne Division today during a visit to the unit's home at Fort Campbell, Ky.
The unit had served a year in Iraq before returning to the Fort Campbell this spring.
"Last year, you helped bring down a regime of a brutal dictator and then put your compassion and your creativity to work in Mosul, training new Iraqi security forces, completing literally thousands of reconstruction projects of various types, and helping the Iraqis build a new democracy and a civil society," Rumsfeld told the crowd of cheering soldiers in green-camouflage uniforms.
Rumsfeld compared these actions to those of servicemembers of the World War II era. Despite hundreds of thousands of deaths and months of setbacks in battle, allied soldiers defeated Germany, Japan and Italy, then spent years rebuilding those very nations and helping them form democratic societies, nations that soon became strong U.S. allies during the Cold War, Rumsfeld noted.
He said historians one day will look back and think just as highly of today's troops fighting the war on terror. "Those of you sitting out there who serve in the armed forces will be looked at with gratitude and appreciation of the American people," Rumsfeld said, "as you should be -- for your courage, for your professionalism, and for the fact that you have been steadfast in good times and in bad."
He said members of the 5th Special Forces Group, also stationed at Fort Campbell, "must be among the most overworked heroes in the Army." Rumsfeld said the group's motto, "To Liberate the Oppressed," is right on the mark for their recent service. "You have been central in helping to liberate some 50 million oppressed people in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.
Rumsfeld lauded the troops for being volunteers and said they have the respect and admiration of the entire country. "Your efforts and the work of our coalition have helped to create two free nations, which now have governments that are fighting terrorists instead of harboring terrorists," he said.
The secretary got some chuckles from the crowd when he told them he's embarrassed to admit the last time he was at Fort Campbell was 1976. During that visit, he said, he met an Army colonel by the name of Colin Powell who was stationed there.
"Now, of course, he's the secretary of state," Rumsfeld said. "It's always nice to see a young fellow get ahead like that."
Then the secretary joked about himself being back in the same job another stint as secretary of defense. "I feel like a gerbil," he said. "I get up every morning, run like the dickens, and I stay right where I am."